The FCS Lions came to Provo to play their first ranked FBS opponent in program history on Saturday, and it didn’t go well for them. No. 8 BYU put the game far out of reach early as the Cougars routed North Alabama 66-14.
BYU’s 66 points is a season high and the most scored since scoring 70 vs. Wagner in 2015. It is also the most points North Alabama has given up in its 72-year history.
The Cougars improved to 9-0 with the victory, though it’s hard to see the rout of an FCS foe making much of a dent in the polls on Sunday. The Cougars’ next, and perhaps final, chance to make an impression in their quest for a NY6 bowl comes on Dec. 12, when Mountain West toughie San Diego State comes to town.
Junior Malik Moore, who made five total tackles — plus a key pass breakup to prevent the Lions from scoring at the end of the first half and an interception in the second half — said the the Cougars would have liked to shut out North Alabama, but were more focused on improving and playing a complete game.
“We weren’t really listening to the media and how we were supposed to win by 50 [points] or anything,” Malik Moore said. “We knew what we were capable of and our goal was to just have an assignment-sound game with no mistakes.”
That’s not to say the Lions didn’t put up a fight. North Alabama still managed 354 total yards — 305 of them in the air — and moved the chains (21 first downs). The Lions also had some good chunk plays, but it just wasn’t enough to keep up with the almost always efficient BYU offense.
The Cougars averaged 9.4 yards per play, and put up 555 total yards.
“Offensively, for us, I was pretty pleased for the most part ... we moved the ball, did some things, did get in the end zone twice,” North Alabama coach Chris Willis said. “We’ve been struggling offensively for the most part in the previous games, so very proud of them.”
Starting quarterback Zach Wilson called it a day after the first half, having thrown for 212 yards and four touchdowns on 10-of-16 passing. The junior hit a career third-best 256.3 quarterback rating and made a career-best 30-yard rush.
Backup quarterback Baylor Romney took over in the second half and threw for 65 yards and one touchdown on 8 of 10 passing. Sol-Jay Maivas-Peters came in late in the game for BYU, but only took one snap for the Cougars.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s plan had been to try to get as many reps he could with as many quarterbacks possible, but didn’t get the chance.
“It’s one of those things where, we didn’t have a lot of plays on offense — we had 59 plays on offense,” Sitake said. “Looking at North Alabama, they possessed the ball. They’re kind of slowing the game down a little bit. They’ve done that with everyone that they’ve played ... We knew that we would take advantage of the plays that we had.”
BYU’s offense was more than efficient. The Cougars scored on all six first-half drives and put up 66 points on 59 offensive plays.
The Lions did some changes to their quarterback position as well, but out of necessity. After starter Blake Dever struggled early on, Rett Files came in. The pair switched off a couple more times throughout the game, trying to get some production on the field.
Saturday’s game served as North Alabama’s season finale, as the winless Lions opted for a shortened four-game season due to the ongoing pandemic. As far as Willis was concerned, his team went out on a high note.
“My guys, I’m proud of them,” the North Alabama coach said. “They competed for four quarters and we did the best we can against a No. 8 team of all college football. Good football team — we’ll be rooting for BYU. They’re a class act.”
It is not yet known if BYU will add more games to the schedule, but Sitake said it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“I think there’s a lot of talk about our schedule, and I just want to remind everyone that we were the only ones committed to playing football in the west in August,” Sitake said. “If you want to assume anything, you should assume we want to play games.”