Gordon Monson: BYU always wanted to play football the way it did 40 years ago. Now, it is.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) celebrates the Cougar’s first touchdown against Texas State during an NCAA college football game at LavVell Edwards Stadium, Saturday, oct. 24, 2020, in Provo, Utah.
It is the first quarter of BYU’s game against Texas State and I’m cogitating the most lopsided of football questions: How much will the Cougars win by … 30 points? … 40? … 50? A hundred? A thousand?
That’s the only swing thought in mind.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU takes takes to the field to take on Texas State during an NCAA college football game at LavVell Edwards Stadium, Saturday, oct. 24, 2020, in Provo, Utah.
It’s not who will win. It’s not whether BYU will fail. It’s not wondering if the Bobcats can find their way to victory.
It’s by how massive a margin, exactly, will 1-5 Texas State drop to 1-6 and 5-0 BYU go to 6-0.
None of this matters to the 6,000 or so socially scattered BYU fans on hand at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night, nor to the legion of Cougar fans tuning in on national television. They collectively want to see not just a slaughter, but rather near perfection in BYU’s pursuit of it.
It is only of minimal concern to them that Texas State scores first, driving down the field on its initial possession, using tricked-up formations to briefly baffle the Cougar defense. Led by Zach Wilson, it took all of 10 plays for BYU to erase that lead and a few more to commence building its own — accomplishing the latter by way of a 33-yard TD pass from Wilson to Keanu Hill, an 11-yard TD run, a Wilson to Isaac Rex TD throw, a Wilson 45-yard scoring bomb to Dax Milne, giving the Cougars a 35-7 lead at the half.
That’s what everyone looking in wants to see — an attack fueled by Wilson spinning the ball down field, impressing Heisman voters and NFL scouts with every rotation into the grabby arms of a plethora of BYU receivers.
In the first, second and third quarters, they are absolutely getting what they hope for, as Wilson repeatedly drops back, sets up and flicks strikes all over the field … and, man, this is fun for him and for them. This is living. This is the planet being properly placed on its axis again. At last. This is a throwback to the best days of McMahon and Young and Bosco and Detmer, in some instances better — because only one of those quarterbacks' teams remained unblemished all season long.
And these Cougars are unblemished, still.
The run game, too, is back where it’s appointed to be, with Lakei Heimuli and Matt Bellini … err, Tyler Allgeier and Lopini Katoa churning for chunks of yardage, thumping through and over prospective tacklers, making them pay for their sorry intentions, complementing the pass game in a way that Edwards himself — incarnated in the form of his pupil Kalani Sitake — always said it should.
It is the fourth quarter now, BYU having scored a gazillion touchdowns and easing up on the throttle through to the finish, (Wilson now comfortably resting on the sideline), trying to decide how hard to keep pushing forward, searching for appropriate balance between popping open the eyes that are watching and being charitable good sports. It’s always a difficult line to find. It was back when it was Texas-El Paso on the receiving end and now it’s Texas State. Where to draw that line? How to get the poll votes? When to show some compassion?
That’s the problem when the schedule is what it is — a veritable carefree, lazy, leisurely lallygag through the woods. The measure of greatness isn’t in merely winning, it’s in avoiding the laziness and winning by six freeway exits past victory.
Midway through the fourth, miles and miles of open road have already been covered — the most favorable margin already secured. The Cougars could, at this point, jump out of their car and push the thing over the finish line without losing exercise or ground.
And losing ground, they won’t, at least they haven’t so far.
Ranked 12th in the national polls coming into this game, having beaten Navy, Troy, Louisiana Tech, UTSA and Houston, two of those teams already having conquered the Bobcats, and now, going out and crushing Texas State, they are bound to hover near the Top 10, even as the Big Ten jumps into the fray.
Which is to say, playing a soft schedule, the remnants of which originated from a challenging one that was, through no fault of their own, blown apart and then cobbled together straight into and through the teeth of a pandemic, has not hurt BYU. It will eventually catch up and interfere with the Cougars if they dream too big, regardless of whether they finish undefeated. It likely will not be enough to get them into the college football playoff, but it could, nevertheless, put them in as good a position as they’ve been in a long, long time.
A game — a win of any kind — against talented Boise State on the Broncos' blue turf would give BYU a boost, as would a win over San Diego State. But the Cougars also face the likes again of Western Kentucky and North Alabama. It might as well be New Mexico and Colorado State of yore.
BYU will roll. Wilson will roll. Allgeier will roll.
The offensive line will flop and plop over on opposing defenses like a slab of concrete flattening whatever sets up in its path — as spirals fly overhead. The defense faces a tough test in Boise, but will stone the obviously overmatched others.
Just like old times. That’s what this is like, a re-do of BYU’s glory years, stacking up victories against inferior competition, with a couple of decent opponents mixed in. That’s how the Cougars stirred interest in their program, that’s how their legacy was built, that’s how LaVell’s Place was expanded into what it is.
BYU is living large, reliving its past.
Saturday night’s evidence: BYU 52, Bobcats 14. And it would have been worse had the Cougars accelerated through to the end, minus all their subbing for their stars.
Either way, not a single soul dressed out in blue watching on Saturday night minded, not one bit. BYU always wanted to play football the way it did four decades ago.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.