Perfect Wilson helps BYU beat W. Michigan in Potato Bowl
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Zach Wilson set a BYU record and tied the NCAA bowl mark with 18-for-18 passing, throwing for 317 yards and four touchdowns in the Cougars’ 49-18 victory over Western Michigan on Friday in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Selected the game MVP, Wilson tied the NCAA bowl record for completion percentage set by Riley Skinner at 11 for 11 for Wake Forest in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.
“I’ve been trying to let Zach loose for a long time now,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think an aggressive style of offense is what we need. This was really good for us to see that we could win a game when a team commits to stopping the run against us.”
Down 10-7 at halftime, BYU (7-6) scored 28 points in the third quarter. Wilson connected with Aleva Hifo for a 70-yard scoring strike, and Riley Burt had a 37-yard touchdown run in the quarter.
Western Michigan (7-6) rolled up 192 yards of offense in the first half, then managed only 41 yards on 18 plays in the decisive third quarter.
“I thought our defense did a great job of keeping us in it,” Western Michigan coach Tim Lester said. “Once they got a lead on us, they got after our secondary pretty good. We knew this game was going to be about which quarterback could get into a rhythm, we said that all week, and (Wilson) got comfortable.”
BYU: Wilson showed that the future is bright for BYU with him under center. And with seven starters returning on a unit that finished the regular season ranked 18th in total defense, BYU will have high expectations.
Wilson, who has no plans to take a break to serve an LDS mission, is the cornerstone for future success. After taking over as the starter midway through the season, he finished his freshman campaign with 1,587 passing yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 221 more. That bodes well for BYU to build continuity on offense, which has had a revolving door at the quarterback position over the past three seasons.
Western Michigan: The Broncos have plenty of work to do to get back to the zenith of their 2016 success that ended with a Cotton Bowl berth, but the building blocks are in place. Jon Wassink, who started the season at quarterback before suffering a season-ending foot injury, will return along with leading rusher LeVante Bellamy.
The defense is also in good shape, returning eight starters that include defensive leaders Drake Spears and Alex Grace, who finished first and second, respectively, on the team in tackles.