Despite long layoff, injuries, No. 18 BYU looks sharp in thumping Troy 48-7 in home opener

Troy safety Dell Pettus (31) tackles BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney during the first half during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

Provo • If the BYU Cougars had fallen behind due to taking 19 days between games, a result of a small COVID-19 outbreak on the team, they quickly put it behind them. No. 18 BYU put on yet another dominating performance Saturday against Troy, beating the Trojans 48-7 in an empty LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The late-night game was highlighted by a stout defense and a laser arm from starting quarterback Zach Wilson.

Wilson, who shared that he tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer earlier this week, threw for a career-high 392 passing yards and two touchdowns on 23 of 28 passing. The junior also added two rushing scores.

Wilson credited his teammates for making his job easy and having so many playmakers out on the field.

“I can make the easy play, and they can make it a big play,” Wilson said.

Although BYU completely overwhelmed Troy, the Cougars had some early hiccups.

On the Cougars' first kick return of the night, Dax Milne muffed the recovery, which was recovered by the Trojans. The Cougar defense went on to cause a turnover on downs to regain possession.

That stop kick-started the Cougars' momentum and set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“After we forced the punt, I loved the way the defense responded to the fact that they had to go back out on the field and go," BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. "They sprinted on the field, were excited to play again and, regardless of what happens in the next series, you have a great chance if your guys are fired up, ready to go. It was more of just having Dax’s back in that situation.”

Then, on BYU’s first true drive, Wilson was flagged for a drive-killing intentional grounding penalty. The game remained scoreless until Masen Wake was able to score for the Cougars on a 1-yard rush toward the end of the first quarter.

The Cougars went on to score two more unanswered touchdowns before Troy was able to get on the board with a 2-yard rushing touchdown by B.J. Smith.

However, with less than a minute left in the first half, Wilson was able to shoot the ball down the field far enough to add a 54-yard field goal by Jake Oldroyd, who tied his career high, to put BYU up 24-7 at halftime.

The Cougars kept the momentum going in the second half, scoring in 33 seconds on two plays thanks to a 70-yard scoring reception by Milne, and kept Troy from scoring once more.

BYU finished the night with 664 total yards (472 of them through the air), while holding Troy to only 181 total yards. The Cougars also posted 33 first downs compared to the Trojans' eight.

The Cougars did all this despite multiple players being sidelined by injuries or illness. That included the four season-ending injuries sustained by Matt Bushman, Jackson McChesney, Hinckley Ropati and Chaz Ah You, as well as Tristen Hoge, who is now dealing with pneumonia following a positive COVID-19 result.

Other players missing from action on Saturday included defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua, offensive lineman Kieffer Longson, defensive back Keenan Ellis, linebacker Josh Wilson and defensive back D’Angelo Mandell.

Senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi was among those players who tested positive a couple of weeks ago, but was cleared to play after two negative results, his wife said in an Instagram post.

Sitake said a “small group” of players were able to return to the team on Thursday.

“Looking at the coaches and staff, I thought they prepared really well,” Sitake said. “Looking at the practices and things that we’ve had to do since postponing the Army game, I was really happy with how coaches worked with the players.”

Even without a sizable number of players, the Cougars were able to play a complete game.

BYU (2-0) will return to action Oct. 2 when the Cougars host Louisiana Tech.