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Wilson throws 4 TD passes in 1st half, backups impress as No. 8 BYU routs FCS foe No. Alabama

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Updated - Nov. 21, 2020 at 5:50 p.m. | Posted - Nov. 21, 2020 at 4:03 p.m.


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PROVO — On BYU's first play from scrimmage, just moments after the Cougars' defense forced a punt to open Saturday afternoon's college football game, Zach Wilson hit Gunner Romney with a 50-yard bomb.

Trendsetter.

Wilson threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns, Dax Milne caught four passes for 101 yards, and Tyler Allgeier ran for 141 yards and two scores — all in the first half — as No. 8 BYU cruised to a 66-14 win over FCS foe North Alabama in front of a mostly-empty LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday marked the first time in the fifth-year tenure of Kalani Sitake that BYU has put up 60 points or more in a single game, a fact that is sure to attract style points when the College Football Playoff committee meets for the first time Tuesday to debate the top teams in the country. It also marked a new career-high for Allgeier, who topped his previous best of 132 yards and two scores in the season opener against Navy.

"I think we're playing good team football, complementary football," Sitake said of his offense, which is averaging 50.6 points per game in five games since a season-low 27-20 win over UTSA on Oct. 10. "With the mindset of our teams and coaches, and our philosophy as a program, we're trying to make good use of our strengths.

"To do that, you give a lot of credit to our coordinators for making a scheme that Zach feels comfortable with and that the players around him can excel in."

That includes the run game, which was led by Allgeier's 10.8 yards per carry in the first half and featured four players averaging 5.1 yards per carry or better Saturday afternoon.

Just as important for the sophomore from Fontana, California, was the work put in by his new backups: freshman Miles Davis had 54 yards and two scores on just four carries, and Kavika Fonua added 36 rushing yards and another 36 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

"Those guys are trusted to be on the field; it's why you saw them out there," Allgeier said. "They put in all the work, learning all the plays and work their butts off. I was hecka proud of them, doing what they were coached to do and then giving a little spice and showing what they can do.

"It was good to see them out there."

Backup quarterback Baylor Romney completed 8-of-10 passes for 65 yards and a score for the Cougars (9-0), who topped 400 yards of offense for the fifth-straight game with its second-consecutive 500-yard game of the year.

Wilson led the Cougars 80 yards over six plays on the opening drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown strike to Isaac Rex with 12:08 on the first-quarter clock. It was the freshman tight end's seventh touchdown of the season, tying his father Byron's career mark at BYU from 1986-91.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving, that could make for an awkward dining room conversation.

"It's good. Bragging rights for the rest of my life, his life," Rex joked with BYUtv. "I feel bad for him, honestly. It's tough, being second to your son — but he's got to live with it.

"I know he's happy for me. He's just happy I'm doing well, and keeping on the Rex tradition."

Byron Rex also threw for a touchdown during his BYU career, so maybe the two are tied. Does throwing for a touchdown count for tight ends? Either way, Isaac Rex is having a breakout season — dance moves aside — with 271 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

"I think it's kind of at the point where we know he's a legit guy," Sitake said of the younger Rex. "But we've been saying that for a while. We knew we were going to be good; it's just a matter of letting them make plays.

"Isaac's got great ball skills, and he's really big. We took a step forward as a team in depth and valuable experience."

BYU scored on its first six drives against the winless Lions, who completed their four-game fall schedule that also included Liberty, Jacksonville State and Southern Miss with four losses by an average margin of 22.75 points. The Cougars became the first team on the Big South newcomer's schedule to score more than 28 points.

Wilson accounted for 143 of BYU's 211 yards of offense in the first quarter, including the touchdown pass to Rex. It took him just four positive plays to reach 100 yards of total offense, which he did on a 33-yard run midway through the quarter.

A game that was never in doubt, the Cougars' lone matchup against an FCS opponent had plenty of experimentation as Sitake examined depth and newcomers. With Lopini Katoa sidelined after what appeared to be a lower-leg injury suffered in BYU's 51-17 win over Boise State, Allgeier and the backups of Fonua and Davis more than made up for the missed production in the backfield.

It wasn't just the offense putting up big numbers, though. Isaiah Kaufusi's 50-yard fumble return set up Rex's second touchdown with 2:59 left in the half. The Cougars held the Lions to 9 yards rushing before the break, including a 2-yard score by Ja'Won Howell with 1:37 remaining.

Even after punting on their first drive of the second half, BYU forced a turnover through Malik Moore's second career interception of his career and first since 2018. Romney then hit Fonua with a 7-yard score for the linebacker's second touchdown of the afternoon.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau'u (2) hauls in a touchdown over North Alabama Lions defensive back Gerrell Green (28) during a game in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (Photo: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

In addition to Moore's team-high five tackles, BYU's defense posted three tackles for loss and three turnovers in holding the Lions to 354 yards, including just 49 yards on the ground. The junior from San Diego felt like he could've had two picks, as well, but for a missed pass that was batted out of his hands shortly before halftime.

"I had to make sure I caught it," said Moore, who also had a pass breakup. "It felt real slow, and I just had to cuddle it like a baby. I caught it, and it felt good."

Of course, that left North Alabama's quarterback duo of Rett Files and Dever Blake to combine for 305 yards, a touchdown and an interception against a Cougar secondary that played plenty of young players but also saw the return of veteran safety Zayne Anderson, who had one tackle in his first game since Oct. 31.

We can improve on a lot of things," Sitake said. "I mentioned before that we were going to sacrifice some stats in order to get our young guys some valuable reps."

BYU has one more game on its 2020 regular season (that could change, though), namely the Dec. 12 home finale against San Diego State, which dropped to 3-2 with a 26-20 loss to undefeated Nevada on Saturday.

Scoring summary

First quarter

12:08 — BYU: Isaac Rex, 2-yard pass from Zach Wilson (Oldroyd kick)

4:32 — BYU: Tyler Allgeier, 2-yard run (Oldroyd kick)

Second quarter

13:24 — BYU: Allgeier, 2-yard run (Oldroyd kick)

6:39 — BYU: Neil Pau'u, 19-yard pass from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)

2:59 — BYU: Rex, 3-yard pass from Wilson (Olroyd kick)

1:37 — UNA: Ja'Won Howell, 2-yard run (Easterling kick)

0:40 — BYU: Kavika Fonua, 22-yard shovel-pass from Wilson (Oldroyd kick)

Third quarter

10:50 — BYU: Fonua, 7-yard pass from Baylor Romney (Oldroyd kick)

0:01 — BYU: Miles Davis, 6-yard run (Oldroyd kick)

Fourth quarter

12:09 — UNA: Jakobi Byrd, 29-yard pass from Rett Files (Easterling kick)

3:38 — BYU: Jake Oldroyd, 53-yard field goal

2:36 — BYU: Davis, 26-yard run (Oldroyd kick)

Final — BYU 66, North Alabama 14

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