Aleva Hifo

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BYU’s Zach Wilson throws perfect game in rout of Western Michigan in Potato Bowl

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The term “perfect game” is a baseball term, but it seems justifiable to use it to describe the performance of BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson in BYU’s blowout of Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday afternoon in Boise, Idaho. Wilson completed 18 of 18 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns as BYU (7-6) blew away Western Michigan (7-6) by a score of 49-18.

Behind the confident passing of Wilson, BYU took over control of the game in the second half. After trailing the Broncos 10-7 at halftime, Wilson quickly got the Cougars on the move with a 48-yard pass to Neil Pau’u and later ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Dylan Collie to put BYU in front. They never looked back. Wilson connected with Collie again on BYU’s next offensive series to build on the lead. Wilson later tossed a 70-yard touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo to extend the lead to 28-10 as BYU was in the midst of scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter.

Wilson did throw an incompletion on BYU’s next possession, but a defensive holding penalty on Western Michigan wiped out the incompletion on the stat sheet to keep Wilson’s perfect afternoon intact. Wilson’s fourth touchdown pass brought him within one completion of tying the all-time record for most consecutive passes to start a bowl game of 19, previously set by Mike Bobo of Georgia (now the head coach of Colorado State) in the 1998 Outback Bowl.

Wilson’s day would come to an end without another pass attempt. With a 42-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake opted to bring in senior quarterback Tanner Mangum to wrap up his collegiate career. While Wilson was stealing the show on offense, BYU’s Sione Takitaki was having himself a day on defense with 19 tackles in the game.

While the season may not have gone quite as well as some BYU fans would have hoped to see, the Cougars did end the season with a winning record and on a winning note after winning just four games in 2017. Wilson’s bowl performance will have optimism riding high in Provo for next season as well. The regular season will start with some stiff challenges once again next fall with a home game against Utah to open the year followed by a road trip to Tennessee and then a home game against USC and Washington in consecutive weeks.

Western Michigan will go back to the drawing board a bit to try putting together a better season. Since going to the Cotton Bowl with an undefeated regular season a couple of years ago, the Broncos have gone 13-12 the last two seasons under head coach Tim Lester. The Broncos lost four of their last five games with the loss in the Potato Bowl with a couple of blowouts and a victory over the MAC champion Northern Illinois making it difficult to project just what to expect from the Broncos next season. This was a game that just got out of hand for Western Michigan after halftime and Wilson was just on a different level passing the football for BYU.

BYU snaps No. 6 Wisconsin’s home winning streak in non-conference play with 24-21 upset

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It has been a rough day of college football for a handful of Big Ten teams. None will suffer a loss as damaging as the one No. 6 Wisconsin (2-1) took at home against BYU (2-1). The Cougars pulled off an upset of Wisconsin, 24-21, that was essentially sealed in the final minute when Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone pushed his game-tying field goal attempt wide left.

The loss by Wisconsin was the first by the Badgers at home against a non-conference opponent since losing at home against UNLV on September 13, 2003. Wisconsin had won 41 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake chose to use two timeouts before Gaglianone’s late field goal try despite having 41 seconds remaining on the clock, potentially giving BYU’s offense chance to do something with the football in the event the game had been tied. But Sitake’s decision to play for no worse than overtime paid off in a big way.

BYU also did a good job of not letting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor hurt them. Taylor rushed for 117 yards on 26 carries, but Taylor was held out of the end zone all day long and there was never a run that really hurt BYU. Wisconsin running backs Taiwan Deal and Alec Ingold did account for three rushing touchdowns.

It was BYU’s Squally Canada who led all players with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tanner Mangum completed just 12 of 22 pass attempts for 89 yards, and wide receiver Aleva Hifo threw the game’s only touchdown pass of the day with a 31-yard pass.

BYU’s special teams pinned Wisconsin inside their own 10-yard line for the final offensive possession by the Badgers in the fourth quarter, which seemed to play into BYU’

s favor with the game thrown into the hands of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook did use safe passes and a couple of runs to his advantage to move Wisconsin into position for the game-tying field goal try. But that was a tradeoff that BYU likely would have taken every time.

The loss by Wisconsin will drop the Badgers off the playoff radar for now, but Wisconsin will have opportunities to hop right back into the discussion as the season progresses. With the games still to play for Wisconsin, the Badgers have a chance to not stay off the radar for too long, but this loss does do some damage to their profile well ahead of the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings. Meanwhile, BYU should be getting some consideration for the top 25 in the polls on Sunday.

Wisconsin opens Big Ten play with their first road game of the season next week. The Badgers travel to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in primetime. BYU will return home next week for a matchup against FCS McNeese State.

No. 6 Wisconsin tied with BYU at halftime in Madison

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After getting run over at home by Wisconsin last season, BYU is looking to return the favor. If they are going to pull off the win, they’ll have to go back to work after seeing Wisconsin tie the game late in the first half. Wisconsin tied BYU at 14-14 with a touchdown run by Alec Ingold on the goal line.

After the two teams exchanged punt son the first two offensive possessions of the game, Wisconsin opened the scoring with Taiwan Deal scoring his first career touchdown from two yards out. BYU answered with a Squally Canada short touchdown run at the end of a 75-yard drive. Canada had given BYU’s offense a jolt earlier in the drive with a 44-yard run to get the ball to the Wisconsin 28-yard line.

BYU took a 14-7 lead on their next series, after Wisconsin punted. Aleva Hifo completed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Moroni Laulu-Pututau early in the second quarter. A chance to take a bigger lead later in the quarter was taken away when an instant replay correctly overturned a completed catch that would have put the Cougars inside the Wisconsin five-yard line. Skyler Southam’s 52-yard try flew wide right to keep the score 14-7.

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor has rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries.