Provo • Seven weeks after fracturing his right (throwing) thumb, Zach Wilson was back as BYU’s starting quarterback. But he needed a little while to ease back in.
Actually, the entire team looked to be shaking off some cobwebs throughout the first quarter, but the Cougars eventually settled down and blew out outmanned FCS foe Idaho State 42-10 on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium in BYU’s final home game of the season.
“I thought we, overall, did some great things,” Wilson said. “We didn't start well, or even had a great second half, but we had a lot of promising drives and we put up 42 points as a team.”
In earning their sixth victory of the season, the Cougars also became bowl-eligible and immediately accepted an invitation to play a yet-to-be-determined opponent in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24 in Honolulu.
“We are excited to be playing in the SoFi Hawai’i Bowl,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “I’m really happy for our football team and impressed with how hard they worked to have this opportunity. BYU has a long history and tradition of playing football in Hawai’i and we are looking forward to playing in Aloha Stadium once again.”
The Cougars are now 6-4 for the season and ran their late-season winning streak to four with the victory over the Bengals (3-8).
Wilson, after shaking off the rust, finished up completing 19 of 31 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a pick.
BYU 42, IDAHO STATE 10
• After a slow, penalty-filled start, the Cougars roll to an easy win over the outmanned Bengals in their final home game of the season.
• Back from a thumb injury that shelved him four games, Zach Wilson completes 19 of 31 passes for 187 yards and two TDs.
• BYU’s sixth win of the season made the Cougars bowl eligible. BYU was invited to the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl after the game.
Because Wilson's injury was to his hand, he was able to rest his shoulder for more than a month before he started throwing again. The sophomore is no stranger to injuries, having undergone surgery for his shoulder during spring camp.
“I'd say my shoulder is probably the best it's been since having surgery,” Wilson said. “All offseason, I never had that opportunity to just take a couple of weeks off and not use it. It was kind of just straight from right out of surgery to every day trying to rehab it. The was the first five or six weeks I really had nothing on my shoulder.”
The Cougars rolled up 449 yards of total offense for the day, yielding 275 to the Bengals.
The Cougars’ momentum on their opening drive kept being halted by penalties — an issue BYU struggled with the entire game — and was ended when Wilson was sacked for a loss of six yards on a third-and-10 play.
On their next play, BYU was a yard from getting a first first down, but another penalty pushed the Cougars back and they weren’t able to recover. In total, BYU was penalized 12 times for 85 yards.
Wilson said the ISU defensive line kept shifting and was making a lot of noise, causing the Cougars’ O-Line to get penalized for false starts. During 16 minutes of the end of the first and start of the second quarter, the O-line lost 40 yards due to penalties.
“Some of their D linemen were yelling 'move' and it was causing our guys to react to the noise and jump a little bit,” Wilson said.
While the BYU offense struggled early, the Cougar defense had no such trouble. Just as the Bengals were starting their second drive, Chris Wilcox broke up an ISU pass that landed in the hands of Austin Lee, which the safety ran in for a touchdown.
That opened things up. The Cougars broke to a 28-3 lead at halftime and led 42-10 after three quarters.
Sitake started clearing his bench in the third quarter, but the last player he pulled was Wilson.
Having missed four games, the BYU staff wanted to give him as many reps in the game as possible. Once Wilson headed to the sideline, Joe Critchlow finished out the game.
Baylor Romney, who has played in the last four games with two starts, has gotten a little banged up over the last couple of games, Sitake said.
Now riding a four-game streak, the Cougars will close out the regular season on the road, visiting UMass next and San Diego State the following week.
BYU will then have more than three weeks to prepare for the Hawaii Bowl.
“I’m thankful for our players, who played hard, and gave the seniors the win they need and win the last game at home,” Sitake said. “Thank you to all the fans who were there to support us. I thought they were loud — they made a lot of noise and had a lot of energy. Just really thankful for the position we’re in right now. We’ve got a little bit of a streak going.”