Provo • For the first time this season, quarterback Zach Wilson believes BYU finally lived up to expectations in its 56-24 win over UMass on Saturday in Amherst, Mass.
Against Idaho State a week ago, even though the Cougars got the win, Wilson didn’t consider it an 'A' kind effort. Against Liberty the previous week, BYU failed to close things out against an inferior team, he said.
Because of their lack of efficiency against opponents they were expected to beat handily, the Cougars decided to focus on their energy as a team last week to prepare for the Minutemen.
“UMass was definitely one that we needed to start strong and just prove we're better than these guys,” Wilson said. “We were aggressive from the very start; we took shots from the very start of the game. The players just kind of expected that big things would happen rather than just coming out slow and feeling like we've got to kind of run the ball on these guys because we want to stay away from mistakes.”
And there was never any doubt that BYU was going to win.
The Cougars' opening drive was stopped early due to a sack for a loss of seven yards, but then BYU went on to score in the following seven drives to put the game away 49-0 at the half.
BYU AT SAN DIEGO STATE
When • Saturday, 7 p.m. MT
TV • CBSSN
Defensive back D’Angelo Mandell believes the team’s newfound confidence has come from enjoying games more.
“I think we're just playing a lot more loose and having fun, but not too much fun to the point where we're not focusing,” Mandell said. “But just be more relaxed and going out there to play for each other.”
The second half against UMass proved to be a completely different game, but that was all right.
Coach Kalani Sitake could be seen during the game being very vocal about the way the bench players took over. The results wound up mixed, but between the UMass and Idaho State games, they got the reps.
On the bright side: freshman Jackson McChesney saw his first action of the season against Idaho State. The running back rushed for 46 yards on 10 carries against the Bengals, but Sitake noticed a lot of mistakes in his play, like in the track of his run, how he took the hand-off and where his eyes where at.
But having film of McChesney allowed assistant coach AJ Steward and the running back to make adjustments. They translated an explosive 228 rushing yards on 15 carries from McChesney –—the best freshman rushing performance in program history.
“And boom, away he goes against UMass,” Sitake said. “I'm expecting him to keep progressing and play better when we get to San Diego State this weekend. That's how I expect all those guys to perform.”
With a tighter game expected at San Diego State on Saturday, the younger players most likely won’t have the same opportunity to play as they did against Idaho State and UMass. But the playing time will pay off longer term.
“I just gave McChesney as an example because I think you saw a lot of growth from him in one week,” Sitake said. “Imagine what the others can do if they keep progressing like he did.”