No. 22 BYU had five weeks to prepare for Navy and nearly three weeks to prepare for Troy. Against Louisiana Tech, the Cougars had four days to get ready.
But that didn’t matter.
Zach Wilson was on fire, throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns on 24 of 26 passing, to lead the Cougars to a 45-14 victory over the Bulldogs on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Things are really starting to click for us as a team,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of thing we can work on and get better, but pleased with the effort from our boys and pleased with the victory. I don’t think you can take victories for granted.”
Wilson, who added 43 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, provided stability in the Cougars' first (kind of) real test of the season. Louisiana Tech and BYU both came in undefeated and averaging more than 50 points per game.
Sitake said he’s been excited to see Wilson’s progression through his collegiate career and happy the staff worked out great schemes for Wilson and the offense.
“We just know when we have a guy with a great work ethic, and he’s willing to sacrifice a lot for his teammates, it becomes a natural thing for everybody to want to follow him," Sitake said. "Eventually, with his work ethic and his dedication to this game, it’s going to pay off.”
In its first two games, BYU hadn’t allowed an opponent to reach 200 total yards — Louisiana Tech put up 272 yards. The Bulldogs first scored on the Cougars in the first quarter — the quickest opponent to score on BYU — and put up more points than the Cougars' first two opponents combined (10).
After La. Tech tied the game in the first quarter, the Bulldogs gave the Cougars a bit of trouble and forced BYU to turn over possession on downs. The Cougars also had to punt on their following drive as the first quarter came to an end.
But BYU was able to recover and move on.
“All offenses have short-term memory,” Wilson said. “You have one bad play and you forget about it — you go on to the next. It doesn’t matter. Each series you go into it, it doesn’t matter what happened on the series before.”
The Cougars put up their third consecutive 500-plus yard game, racking up 513 total yards against the Bulldogs.
But, even though Louisiana Tech gave BYU trouble early on, the Cougars quickly put the game out of reach. BYU scored 38 unanswered points.
The Cougars also didn’t dip in production on the offense while having some new faces on the offensive line.
Last week against Troy, starting center James Empey got injured early in the game, but continued playing for the Cougars. On Friday, it was a game-time decision to put Joe Tukaufu in at center — his first career start at the position.
Although there was a new face delivering snaps, it had no effect on Wilson.
So far through three games, Wilson is throwing 84.5% with 949 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. On the ground, Wilson has 41 yards and five touchdowns.
Throughout his career, even as a kid, Wilson doesn’t believe he’s ever had this level of efficiency through three games.
“I think a lot of that comes with really good coaching,” Wilson said. “I feel like my coaches have done a good job of being able to give me easy plays to give the receivers the ability to make plays. Every once in a while in a game, you’ve got to be able to make a big-time throw — throw something that is maybe not planned. That really comes down to the line giving me time, the receivers getting open and reacting and me and Gunner [Romney] being on the same page on a lot of them tonight.”
The Bulldogs eventually battled through a 17-play drive that included two fourth-down conversions to get their second score of the night on a 4-yard reception by Smoke Harris — his second TD of the game.
Though it was another lopsided win, the Cougars' lack of preparation was evident in the simple mistakes made.
In the first two games, BYU committed only three penalties for 20 yards. On Friday, the Cougars racked up five penalties for 50 yards.
“We’re a lot better than that,” Sitake said.
But BYU was able to finish strong.
After the Cougars' second- and third-string offense struggled against Louisiana Tech’s starters, Max Tooley snagged an interception for BYU to regain possession with less than a minute left. And, for the third time in a row, BYU took a knee to end the game.