BYU ended a magical season in spectacular fashion on Tuesday.
The Cougars, who had never won a football game in the state of Florida in eight previous tries, hammered UCF 49-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl to finish the season 11-1, their best finish since going 14-1 back in 1996.
“Things just went our way tonight, but I know [UCF is] a well-coached team,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Coach [Josh] Heupel is a great coach, and he has a great staff, and those guys will be back again. They’ll be ready to roll and I think things happened for us real quick and worked in our favor. I’m glad we got the win.”
In what was expected to be a high-scoring affair, only the Cougars kept up their offensive end of the bargain. BYU put up 655 total yards, while holding UCF to 411. The Knights had previously been averaging 585.6 yards per game (second best in the nation).
UCF has scored 30 or more points in 45 of its last 47 games, but was left wanting more on Tuesday.
Even Heupel said he didn’t see the lopsided score coming — especially the low point total from the Knights’ end.
“We’re very disappointed with the way we played here tonight, really, in every phase of the game,” Heupel said.
Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel came in with similar stats to Zach Wilson, but was effectively shut down by the Cougars defense in the bowl game, particularly in the first half. UCF was unable to score in the first quarter, giving up possession on two punts and one turnover on downs, before getting the first score of the game in the second quarter.
But while the Knights may have hoped to add a second touchdown going into halftime, they had to instead settle for a field goal.
“We came out here with a sense of swagger and just executed at a high level early on in this game,” defensive back Troy Warner said of BYU’s defensive play. “That was a big tribute to the game plan coming in.”
If it was indeed Wilson’s last game as a Cougar, the BYU quarterback finished his collegiate career with a performance to remember. Wilson threw for 425 yards and three touchdowns on 26 of 34 passing. The junior also added two rushing scores.
The BYU quarterback expects to make his decision by the new year.
“I’m going to meet with my family and go through the pros and cons, and we’ll figure it out,” Wilson said.
Tyler Allgeier led the Cougars running game with a career-high 173 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. In the air game, Wilson took advantage of multiple receivers; five different players had more than 50 receiving yards. Freshman Isaac Rex led all receivers with 96 yards and two touchdowns, while Lopini Katoa added 90 yards, Neil Pau’u had 86 yards and a score, Dax Milne had 70 yards and Allgeier added 60 receiving yards.
Allgeier and Milne finished the season with more than 1,000 rushing and receiving yards, respectively.
BYU scored on seven of its 12 drives, five of them consecutively, turning over the ball on downs twice and punting just once.
The Cougars snapped 15 fewer plays than the Knights, but averaged 9.0 yards per play compared to UCF’s 4.7 yards per play.
Offensive lineman Chandon Herring said having the chance to close out the 2020 season with that strong of an offensive performance was “immensely satisfying.”
“Seeing that we came out juiced and we were able to reach that, it speaks volumes to the character of the guys that we have and the work we put in,” Herring said. “So, it was super satisfying. I’m super proud of it.”
BYU 49, UCF 23
• BYU gets resounding win over USC, 49-23, in Boca Raton Bowl to end the season 11-1
• Zach Wilson threw for more than 200 yards in the first quarter alone, a total of 425 yards in what might be his final game as a Cougar.
• Tyler Allgeier led running game with 173 yards on 19 carries