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BYU football: Cougars leave lasting impression with bowl win over UCF

BYU punctuated what’s already been an unforgettable 2020 season with a dominant 49-23 victory over UCF in the Boca Raton Bowl.

BYU punctuated what’s already been an unforgettable 2020 season with what may have been its best performance of the year, as the Cougars cruised past UCF 49-23 in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night.

The dominant victory at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida, gives No. 16 BYU an 11-1 record on the season, the school’s first 11-win campaign in 11 years. The Cougars also set a program record — and Boca Raton Bowl record — with 655 yards of total offense while holding down a normally potent Knights offense.

Offense

Zach Wilson turned in another game that made national pundits laud his efforts. By halftime, the BYU junior quarterback had completed 17 of 21 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns, and he added a pair of rushing touchdowns.

By game’s end, Wilson had thrown for 425 yards — his second 400-yard game of the season — on 26 of 34 passing, and he accounted for 453 yards of total offense (including 12 rushing yards and 16 receiving yards on a trick play) and five touchdowns.

That began with a brilliant first quarter when the Cougars rolled up 270 yards of offense and scored three touchdowns to set the tone for the rest of the game. BYU scored its first two touchdowns — a Wilson 15-yard run and an Isaac Rex 36-yard reception — in the game’s first four minutes, and Wilson later added a 4-yard run before the first quarter ended.

BYU scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions to take a 35-7 lead, then started the third quarter with back-to-back touchdowns to push its advantage to a game-high 39 points at 49-10, and the Cougars cruised to the win.

Through three quarters, BYU was averaging 10.4 yards per play. The Cougars finished with a 9.0 average.

Grid View

  • Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) celebrates his touchdown with Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) celebrates his touchdown with Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) makes a diving catch against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4) makes a diving catch against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Zac Dawe (99) pressures UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Zac Dawe (99) pressures UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) dives for additional yards after catching a pass against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) dives for additional yards after catching a pass against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars defensive back D’Angelo Mandell (16) and Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Troy Warner (4) applaud after UCF Knights wide receiver Jaylon Robinson (1) dropped the ball on a sure touchdown during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars defensive back D’Angelo Mandell (16) and Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Troy Warner (4) applaud after UCF Knights wide receiver Jaylon Robinson (1) dropped the ball on a sure touchdown during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) throws against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) throws against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) scores against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) scores against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scores on UCF Knights defensive back Jon Powell (34) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scores on UCF Knights defensive back Jon Powell (34) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scores on UCF Knights defensive back Jon Powell (34) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) scores on UCF Knights defensive back Jon Powell (34) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Connor Pay (70) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Connor Pay (70) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Neil Pau’u (2) celebrates his touchdown against the UCF Knights with Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) can’t make the catch under defense firm UCF Knights defensive back Jermaine McMillian (26) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) can’t make the catch under defense firm UCF Knights defensive back Jermaine McMillian (26) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) runs for a gain during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) runs for a gain during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) makes a catch against UCF Knights defensive back Davonte Brown (7) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) makes a catch against UCF Knights defensive back Davonte Brown (7) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Ella and Carter Griffith cheer for the Cougars during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Ella and Carter Griffith cheer for the Cougars during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) is helped up after scoring against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) is helped up after scoring against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) walks off the field slowly after scoring against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) walks off the field slowly after scoring against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars linebaker Pepe Tanuvasa hurries UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars linebaker Pepe Tanuvasa hurries UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake applauds an extra point during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake applauds an extra point during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs for a large gain against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs for a large gain against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) catches touchdown against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars tight end Isaac Rex (83) catches touchdown against the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars players warms up under the sunset prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, FL on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars players warms up under the sunset prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, FL on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Sarah, Michael, Melissa and Madison Croxall hold signs prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Sarah, Michael, Melissa and Madison Croxall hold signs prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • The stadium at Florida Atlantic University, used for the Boca Raton Bowl, is pictured in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The stadium at Florida Atlantic University, used for the Boca Raton Bowl, is pictured in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • BYU Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake and UCF Knights head coach Josh Heupel watch warmups prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake and UCF Knights head coach Josh Heupel watch warmups prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) warms up prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) warms up prior to the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Helmets are displayed with the Boca Raton Bowl trophy in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Helmets are displayed with the Boca Raton Bowl trophy in Boca Raton, Florida, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) signs an autograph for a young fan after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) signs an autograph for a young fan after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • The Brigham Young Cougars players hoist the trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. The Brigham Young Cougars players hoist the trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • The Brigham Young Cougars high-five the fans after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. The Brigham Young Cougars high-five the fans after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrates the win over the UCF Knights with athletic director Tom Holmoe after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrates the win over the UCF Knights with athletic director Tom Holmoe after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates the win over the UCF Knights with athletic director Tom Holmoe the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates the win over the UCF Knights with athletic director Tom Holmoe the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1), Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4 )and Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Brady Christensen (67) hoist the trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1), Brigham Young Cougars running back Lopini Katoa (4 )and Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Brady Christensen (67) hoist the trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake and Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrate the win over the UCF Knights with fans during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake and Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) celebrate the win over the UCF Knights with fans during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson holds up the MVP trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson holds up the MVP trophy after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) shoots a selfie with fans after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) shoots a selfie with fans after the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Payton Wilgar (49) tackles UCF Knights running back Greg McCrae (30) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Payton Wilgar (49) tackles UCF Knights running back Greg McCrae (30) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Fans are distanced during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Fans are distanced during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Caleb Christensen (15) tackles UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Caleb Christensen (15) tackles UCF Knights quarterback Dillon Gabriel (11) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) takes a snap during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson (1) takes a snap during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars running back Tyler Allgeier (25) celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) can’t come up with the catch during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Interference was called on the play. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Dax Milne (5) can’t come up with the catch during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Interference was called on the play. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) celebrates his touchdown with Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Harris LaChance (76) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Gunner Romney (18) celebrates his touchdown with Brigham Young Cougars offensive lineman Harris LaChance (76) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Max Tooley (31) levels UCF Knights punt returner Amari Johnson (17) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Max Tooley (31) levels UCF Knights punt returner Amari Johnson (17) during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Tyson Pinegar, Darek Andersen and Cooper Sargent cheer on BYU during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Tyson Pinegar, Darek Andersen and Cooper Sargent cheer on BYU during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
  • Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates the win over the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake celebrates the win over the UCF Knights during the Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, Fla., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. BYU won 49-23. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

It wasn’t just the Wilson show, though. Tyler Allgeier had another standout performance, rushing for 173 yards on 19 carries — a 9.1-per carry average — and scored on a 39-yard run to start the third quarter. His effort put him over 1,000 yards rushing for the year at 1,130. He added 60 receiving yards, including a 43-yard grab early in the game.

Rex, the redshirt freshman tight end, caught two touchdown passes to give him 12 on the year, and finished with five catches for a team-high 96 receiving yards. Neil Pau’u had five receptions for 86 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Lopini Katoa added 111 yards of total offense (21 rushing, 90 receiving), including a highlight-worthy 30-yard reception. Dax Milne, the team’s leading receiver, added seven catches for 70 yards, including several grabs that picked up drive-extending first downs on third-down plays.

The offensive line stepped up as well, even with James Empey and Clark Barrington out and Tristen Hoge and Joe Tukuafu leaving the game with injuries, as the Cougars rushed for 214 yards behind a line that showed off its depth.

Grade: A

Defense

This was the most impressive outing of the year for the BYU defense, as the Knights brought one of the nation’s top offenses — led by dynamic sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel — into the game.

Gabriel, who was No. 2 in the nation in passing yards per game heading into the contest, never got on track until the game was well in hand. BYU held Gabriel to 95 passing yards in the first half (on 9 of 22 passing), and at one time, the quarterback misfired on nine straight passes. The Cougars also forced Gabriel into an incompletion on a fourth-down play in Cougar territory in the third quarter after BYU had built a 49-10 lead.

Gabriel finished the game completing 21 of 45 passes for 217 yards — well below his 372-yard average — and two touchdowns, both of which came late in the game.

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The Knights were able to run for 194 yards, though BYU made them work for their scores. Three of UCF’s scoring drives took 10-plus plays, as the Cougars held the Knights to a 4.7 yards-per-play average and forced three three-and-outs, including two straight to start the second half.

One of the game’s biggest plays came on a fourth down in the first quarter, when UCF had driven to the BYU 24 after the Cougars went ahead 14-0. Facing a fourth-and-1, the Knights’ Greg McCrae tried to pick up the first down on the ground, but Cougar defensive lineman Zac Dawe met him in the backfield for a 1-yard loss, and BYU took over possession.

Keenan Pili led the Cougars with nine tackles, while Isaiah Kaufusi added eight. Fellow linebacker Max Tooley had six tackles, a half tackle for loss and two QB hurries, while safeties Troy Warner and Zayne Anderson each had four tackles and a pass breakup.

Grade: A

Special teams

The Cougars were again solid, if not unspectacular, on special teams.

BYU did not need to call on kicker Jake Oldroyd for a field-goal attempt on the same day he was named a Lou Groza Award finalist, though he did kick seven extra points. Oldroyd finished the year a perfect 13-for-13 on field-goal attempts.

Caleb Christensen had three kickoff returns for a 23-yard average, including a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 27-yard return following UCF’s first touchdown that set BYU up at its 32. That led to a touchdown that put the Cougars ahead 28-7.

Hobbs Nyberg had one punt return for 10 yards to start the third quarter, which set BYU up at midfield. The Cougars turned that into a touchdown to go up 42-10 less than two minutes into the second half.

Punter Ryan Rehkow punted just once, booting a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter that forced UCF to start a drive from inside its own 20.

Grade: A

Overall

The Cougars executed the game plan against a good Knights team, and it allowed BYU to get ahead early and stay in control.

Kalani Sitake and his staff once again had the team ready to play from the start, allowing the Cougars to cap a memorable season with one of the program’s most dominant bowl efforts.

Grade: A

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