BYU doesn’t go hunting for style points, gets them anyway in thumping of Troy – Deseret News

PROVO — Just after midnight on the East Coast Saturday night, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson saw Dax Milne wide open downfield and threw a strike to his soon-to-be-former housemate — fear of contact tracing over COVID-19 will split up the longtime friends — that went for a 70-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 24-point lead over Troy just seconds into the second half.

Why does it matter what time it was in New York City, Boston, Miami and Charlotte?

Because that’s where a lot of voters who participate in The Associated Press Top 25 reside, and presumably No. 18 BYU showed them enough, perhaps even more than that, to convince them to keep the only college football team playing in the West, for now, in the national rankings. It is not a given that the Cougars will stay there with Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West teams now eligible to receive votes.

BYU rolled from there to take a 48-7 win over a decent Troy team from the red-hot Sun Belt Conference that looked capable of an upset after throttling Middle Tennessee State 47-14 last week, but didn’t come close at empty LaVell Edwards Stadium, another victim of the fear over coronavirus spread.

“We have to keep proving it,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “This was just one game; Our guys still have a lot to prove.”

The Cougars (2-0), who played almost flawlessly on both sides of the ball for the second-straight game, save a busted coverage just before halftime that led to Troy’s only score when it mattered and the first TD put on BYU this season, have to hunt for style points, and Saturday night it got them in spades.

Again.

That’s the reality of BYU’s reconstructed, greatly weakened schedule in 2020. If they hope to stay in the rankings, the Cougars can’t just eke past the likes of Navy, Troy and next week, Louisiana Tech. A blasting of Troy should do the trick — it was 24-7 at halftime — and Wilson was as good as he was freshman year in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Wilson left the game early in the fourth quarter, giving way to Baylor Romney, having thrown for a career-high 392 yards and posting a passer rating of 223.3.

If nothing else, the first two performances have solidified the Cougars’ preseason hints that this was going to be one of their best teams in years. It would be a shame if athletic director Tom Holmoe can’t find at least one opponent (Boise State, maybe?) that the Cougars won’t be favored to thump from here on out.

Fears that BYU would come out rusty after going 19 days between games, its longest in-season gap since 2001, surfaced briefly when Milne dropped a punt to give Troy possession inside its 25 before Wilson even got his hands on the ball.

“We knew Dax was going to be fine,” Sitake said.

BYU’s defense held deep in its own territory, just as it did Sept. 7 when faced with a similar setback at Navy, and Wilson’s first throw of the night was to Milne, a confidence-regainer for 23 yards. And the Cougars were off and running, throwing, whatever they wanted to do.

For the second-straight game, credit Sitake for calling off the dogs. With Baylor Romney having replaced Wilson early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars only tacked on three more points when they easily could have scored a couple more touchdowns.

The game ended with BYU taking a knee inside the Troy 10, just as it did at Navy when the Cougars settled for a 55-3 victory.

“I just want to win games and play with sportsmanship,” Sitake said. “I don’t believe in style points. … I just feel like this is the right thing to do.”

Facing a spread offense that was supposed to test them more than Navy’s rush-oriented attack did, the Cougars’ defense shined again. Khyiris Tonga (two sacks and a pass break-up) and company added four sacks to the five they had against Navy. That makes nine in two games, after Ilaisa Tuiaki’s guys got just 13 all of last year.

In a way, the Troy TD could be put on the coaches, because they got greedy and called a timeout hoping to get the ball back with just under two minutes left and Troy facing a third-and-5 from the 30.

Finding a favorable matchup with Tray Eafford on BYU linebacker Kavika Fonua, Gunnar Watson found Eafford for a 55-yard gain. Four plays later, the Trojans scored the first touchdown of the season against BYU with 1:05 remaining in the first half.

Troy got 75 of its 133 first-half yards on that drive.

“Still disappointed about giving them that big play at the end of the half that gave them seven points,” said Sitake, who added that he liked the way the offense bounced back and marched down the field for a field goal to end the half.

Linebacker Keenan Pili led the Cougars with nine tackles, while freshman Micah Harper got seven, and a tackle for loss, in getting his first start at cornerback. The defense did it all without forcing a turnover.

About the only thing to nitpick the offense about was that it went 1 for 6 on third down when Wilson was at the controls. They were 0 for 5 until Gunner Romney’s sideline catch was ruled good upon replay review. Romney, who entered the weekend leading the country in yards per catch (34), probably held on to that distinction after making five grabs for 138 yards.

Wilson came out throwing ropes, showing off the arm coaches promised he had in August. The junior had a passer rating of 232.2 midway through the second quarter, and finished the first half 16 of 19 for 246 yards and a touchdown, with a passer rating of 210.3.

“All it means is we can’t get too big of an ego, too big of a head, going into next week,” Wilson said.

Other highlights of the half were Gunner Romney’s diving reception that netted 42 yards and was inches short of the end zone.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes unveiled some nifty new plays, and mixed in a gadget play, a double pass, that would have gone for a touchdown if former high school quarterback Neil Pau’u hadn’t overthrown an open Isaac Rex.