BOCA RATON, Fla. (ABC4 Sports) – In what is expected to Zach Wilson’s final game at BYU, the Cougars quarterback saved his best for last.
Wilson completed 26 of 34 passes for a career-high 425 yards, three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns, as the Cougars blew out UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl, 49-23.
Tyler Allgeier rushed for a career-high 173 yards and a touchdown, as BYU raced out to a 35-7 halftime lead and cruised past the Knights to finish the season with a record of 11-1.
“I’m very proud of our team, proud of our players and excited about the result,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Obviously, we feel like we can do some things better, but I saw a lot of young guys that are going to be back next year show up and make a difference for us.”
Isaac Rex caught five passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 12 touchdowns for the season, while Neil Pau’u and Gunner Romney also scored touchdowns for the Cougars.
BYU racked up 34 first downs and a Boca Raton Bowl record 655 yards of total offense.
“They’re a great defense, but we noticed on film that they struggle a lot with crossing routes and stuff underneath,” Wilson said. “So we had a lot of success with it. It was part of our game plan going in and they struggled with it down the stretch. The goal was to get it out to the playmakers and let them make plays.”
“He’s a great player,” Sitake said about Wilson. “I think everybody’s talked about him a lot, and I hope he knows how much I appreciate him. You know, we believe in him. Coach Roderick has done a great job with him. I’m just so thankful that I get the coach that guy. His work ethic and his passion for the game is awesome, and it’s an honor for me to be his coach.”
Wilson said he would make a decision about his NFL future sometime between Christmas and New Year’s, but expressed gratitude for being able to play in an offense like this.
“Amazing offense,” he said. “I think it’s just going to keep going from here. It’s been an exciting year of 2020, but also tons of ups and downs. Great way to finish this way, but this offense is just going to keep improving into next year and the year after that. We got some great coaches and great players around that are used to the scheme and know what we’re asking for. So it’s been an exciting year, but we’re going to keep growing on for next year.”
BYU converted 7 of 11 third down attempts, and averaged 5.6 yards per carry rushing.
“To dominate this game, it was just special,” said linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi. “Really proud of the guys, proud of the team. We worked so hard for this, and to be able to execute and play at a high level like we did tonight is just incredible.”
BYU took control of the game from the outset, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. Wilson capped an 87-yard drive on BYU’s first possession with a 15-yard touchdown run.
Wilson then hit Rex on a 36-yard scoring strike to give the Cougars a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. Wilson made it 21-0 with a 4-yard touchdown run, and the rout was on.
After UCF got on the board with a 5-yard touchdown run by Greg McCrae. But the Cougars countered with two touchdown passes from Wilson, a 27-yarder to Rex and a 36-yard strike to Pau’u.
Leading 35-10 at the half, Allgeier rumbled 39 yards for a touchdown at the start of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 42-10. Romney then scored on a 6-yard end around to stretch the lead to 49-10.
Lopini Katoa had 4 catches for 90 yards, while Dax Milne caught 7 passes for 70 yards.
“We were expecting to put up lots of points and lots of yards,” said offensive lineman Chandon Herring. “That’s something we tried to do a lot this year, and we’ve seen success and we’re happy with the way tonight turned out.”
UCF came into the game averaging 44 points per game, but was held to a season-low 23 points and 411 yards.
Keenan Pili led the Cougar defense with nine tackles, including two solo stops, while senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi had eight tackles and junior linebacker Payton Wilgar had seven. Senior safeties Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson each recorded four tackles, including three solo stops, and one pass breakup apiece.
“Really proud of the defense,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I would have taken 23 points in a heartbeat if you would have told me that before the game.”
“We came out with a sense of swagger,” said defensive back Troy Warner. “We just executed at a high level early on in this game so that was a big tribute to the game plan coming in.”
Wilson, who is expected to be a first round NFL Draft pick, finishes a historic season with 3,692 yards, 33 touchdown passes and 10 touchdown runs.
Allgeier surpassed 1,000 yards for the season with 1,040 yards in his 10 games played. He is only the 16th BYU player to run for more than 1,000 yards in a season and the first since Jamaal Williams (current Green Bay Packer running back) had 1,408 yards in 2016.
This is the first time since 2011 that BYU has won 11 games in a season. It was also the Cougars first win in the state of Florida in eight games, going back 44 years.