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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.

Western Michigan leading BYU in defensive first half in Potato Bowl

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After trailing at the end of the first quarter, Western Michigan has scored 10 straight points to take a 10-7 lead on BYU into halftime of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise.

Western Michigan worked the clock well on the game’s opening drive by taking off nearly half of the time in the first quarter but the Broncos were stuffed on a fourth-down run with two yards to go to bring an end to the 14-play drive with nothing to show for it. After each team’s defense had a strong and short series, BYU capitalized on a shanked punt that traveled just nine yards off the foot of Nick Mihalic. Starting the ball at the Western Michigan 27-yard line, Zach Wilson completed a 26-yard pass to Dylan Collie on BYU’s second play from scrimmage on the drive for a touchdown.

Later in the second quarter, Western Michigan opted once again to roll the dice on fourth down with just a few yards to go. This time went much more to their liking with Jamauri Bogan bouncing off to the left side and getting a block for a 33-yard touchdown to bring the game even at 7-7. The Broncos added a late field goal to take their first lead of the game shortly before halftime.

BYU’s Wilson has completed all eight of his pass attempts so far, with 95 yards and a touchdown to show for it. Western Michigan’s Kaleb Eleby has been fairly accurate as well, although the yards for both quarterbacks aren’t racking up too many big plays with any regularity.

We could have another close game on our hands on this Friday, so stay tuned for the second half.

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.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.