Gordon Monson: BYU finds a bit of heaven in thrashing of Navy

BYU's Lopini Katoa (4) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Navy, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Tommy Gilligan)

And here’s to you, college football.

Heaven holds a place for those who play.

Hey, hey, hey.


Our nation turned its lonely eyes to you.

Woo, woo, woo.

Begging for Paul Simon’s forgiveness here, but …

While Jolting Joe had done what so much of CFB had done — left and gone away, hey, hey, hey — the Cougars and Midshipmen stayed and played, doing what they could to sing a song on Monday night at empty Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on national TV.

Sing, they did.

It was a lopsided tune.

BYU hit the sweet notes, utilizing a decisive advantage along its offensive and defensive lines to blast the Midshipmen. At the end, the final numbers on the board — BYU 55, Navy 3 — shined into the Maryland night, answering one of two primary questions that needed a response.

Which of the defenses would put up proper resistance against the opposing attack, each potentially explosive?

The resounding answer: BYU.

That was surprising on account of the fact that the Cougars struggled against the run a season ago, and the run is what Navy does, hovering near the top of NCAA rushing stats — first last season — by way of its option devices almost every season.

BYU held the Midshipmen to just 119 run yards.

Who knew?

The two programs had only faced each other twice in their football histories — the first, a tight Midshipmen victory in the inaugural Holiday Bowl in 1978 and the second, a 21-point Cougars win at Annapolis in 1989 — but there was little mystery, even in the middle of a pandemic, as to what Navy would attempt to do to BYU — battle and baffle it on the ground.

The Cougars knew this, and played like they knew it.

Their defensive front absolutely stoned Navy, playing assignment-sound football, fending off the Middies’ cut blocks ahead of sorting through all that deception, discovering exactly who had the ball and tackling the dude.

Maybe they tackled everybody.

Going the other way, answering the second question, the Cougars’ offense was vastly superior to Navy’s. They thought they’d have their way up front with an offensive line that dwarfed the Midshipmen defensive front. And, man, oh, man, they were right.

On account of that mismatch, BYU powered the ball from the outset. Navy’s scrappy D could not handle those big blockers, nowhere near enough to cause disruptions to that plan, let alone stop it.

Lopini Katoa and Tyler Allgeier hammered away for 212 yards on the ground.

Occasionally, the Cougars, just for fun, went with the arm of Zach Wilson, where they saw more success. The junior quarterback, following in the steps of Jim McMahon in the previous loss and Ty Detmer in the previous win, picked apart the Navy secondary through three quarters, throwing for 232 yards, hitting on 13 of 18 passes, 2 touchdowns, 1 pick.

Even without injured tight end Matt Bushman, the attack’s centerpiece lost for the season last week in practice, Wilson looked comfortable searching out and finding his receivers. As much as the QBs at BYU get so much attention, in the good years, it’s the receivers who are stellar in the ascent.

Gunner Romney and Dax Milne, along with Neil Pau’u, combined to trouble the back of Navy’s defense.

Prior to this game, BYU coaches had whispered they no longer would play conservative football, instead putting pressure on all quadrants of the field, not necessarily with the number of throws, rather with the assortment of them, mixed as appropriate with the run.

That’s exactly what the Cougars did, although it seemed as though they could have run with impunity all the night long.

The only negative for BYU was this: An entire country of football-hungry fans tuned in to watch this game. But by halftime, the Cougars up, 31-0, the clicks on remotes in front of TVs from the Pacific to the Atlantic were looking for something a bit more competitive.

So be it.

With the thunderous victory over Navy, one of the Cougars’ toughest opponents in their light, COVID-altered eight-game schedule, they set themselves up for a one-sided season, maybe even an unblemished one, such as it is.

Heaven holds a place for those who play.

Hey, hey, hey.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.