BYU quarterback Zach Wilson once was intent on winning lots of game on the blue turf in Boise.
Now the star junior’s goal is to lead the Cougars to their first-ever win in six visits to Boise State when No. 9 BYU faces the No. 21 Broncos on Friday night.
Wilson committed to play at Boise State in June 2017 but reneged on his pledge six months later when schools such as BYU and Iowa made late offers. He chose the Cougars and rapidly moved up the depth chart, becoming the starter during his freshman season.
Two years later, he is soaring up the list of top college quarterbacks, and some draft experts have him as a top-10 overall pick if he should enter the NFL draft after this season.
Wilson regularly earns raves for his stellar accuracy — on long throws as well as short and medium range — as he has completed 74.6 percent of his passes this season. He has passed for 2,152 yards and 19 touchdowns against just two interceptions while helping BYU to its first 7-0 start since 2001.
This contest will be Wilson’s second visit to Boise as a member of the Cougars. The other came when BYU lost 21-16 on Nov. 3, 2018. Wilson guided the Cougars from their own 17-yard line to the Boise State 2 on a last-ditch drive before being sacked on the final play of the game.
Nearly three years after backing out of the commitment, Wilson is well aware that some Boise State fans still harbor disdain for him, but he said he is solely focused on this week’s matchup.
“I’m not reflecting on the past at all,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a new team and they have a new team two years later. It’s a great opportunity for us, and they’ve got a good football team over at Boise and they do well at home, as well so it’s a big week for us preparation-wise. This is a good football team we are going to face, and we’ve got to give them our best shot.”
Boise State (2-0) faces uncertainty at the quarterback position after sophomore starter Hank Bachmeier didn’t travel with the team Saturday to a 49-30 victory over Air Force.
Broncos coach Bryan Harsin declined to shed light on the reason for Bachmeier’s absence. The school did reveal that one player missed the game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Sophomore starting safety JL Skinner also was left home, but it remains unknown which Boise State player tested positive.
What is known is junior transfer Jack Sears was superb in Bachmeier’s place, completing 17 of 20 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns and also rushing for a score. CBS Sports Network reported during the game broadcast that Sears learned last Tuesday that he would start against Air Force.
Regardless, the former Southern California quarterback was ready for the assignment, immediately proving it with a 75-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver CT Thomas on the game’s first offensive play.
“Obviously, great to get out there and play and get a win as a Bronco and help out this program,” Sears said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve been preparing like I’m a starter, just being ready, next-man-up mentality. So once they gave me the green light, I was ready to go.”
The Friday contest figures to be a high-scoring affair as Boise State averaged 45.5 points (third in the nation) and 454.5 yards (22nd) during its two first games, while BYU is averaging 44.4 points (seventh) and 527.7 yards (sixth). The Cougars have topped 40 points in six of their first seven games for the first time in program history.
In a 41-10 victory over Western Kentucky last Saturday, Wilson passed for a season-low 224 yards and had his school-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception halted at 184.
Cougars coach Kalani Sitake believes playing at Boise State will be a big challenge for his team.
“That’s going to be a tough one, and I’m looking forward to that matchup,” Sitake said. “I’m happy that our guys are playing well, but it doesn’t really matter now. We’ve got to get ready for the next game.”
BYU beat the Broncos 28-25 last season in Provo, Utah, even though Wilson was sidelined with a broken thumb on his right (throwing) hand.
–Field Level Media