No. 16 BYU wasted no time making a statement with its final performance of a memorable 2020 season, rolling through UCF in a 49-23 win in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday. The Cougars jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and rolled to an easy victory over the Knights (6-4) to cap an 11-1 season.
BYU was the talk of college football for much of the season, jumping out to a 9-0 start before falling literally 1-yard short of an undefeated season in a 22-17 loss at Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5. The circumstances of that game, scheduled just days before the game, and the epic finish were turning points of the season. Unfortunately for the Cougars, being on the losing end meant a drop in the selection committee's rankings and the independent status left no conference championships to play for on Dec. 19.
Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Zach Wilson finished with 425 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-34 passing with another two scores on the ground. Wilson set a Boca Raton Bowl record with his passing yards and BYU set a Boca Raton Bowl record with 656 yards of total offense, breaking the previous record set by Western Kentucky (598) in 2016.
Racking up impressive offensive stats comes a little bit easier when all the bowl season trick plays are hitting, like when BYU pulled off the handoff, lateral and toss back to the quarterback on a Wilson touchdown pass to tight end Isaac Rex.
Rex finished with a team-high 96 yards and two touchdowns on five catches for the game.
What the win brings into focus is how the Cougars have been one of the best teams in college football in 2020. The selection committee downgraded BYU based on its strength of schedule but this was the only FBS team in the country ranked in the top-10 in scoring offense, total offense, scoring defense and total defense. When it comes to lining up against the opponent, few teams can say they dominated competition like BYU and that seemed to be the statement all the way until the final moments of the lopsided win. When Wilson was kneeling the clock out inside the 10-yard line to close out the 11-1 season, the team was able to celebrate the conclusion of one of the best seasons in program history.
For UCF, the loss is the first double-digit defeat of the Josh Heupel era. All seven of the previous losses under Heupel have been close and mostly to other top teams in the American Athletic Conference. It's been a while since UCF has been blown out like it was in the Boca Raton Bowl and the fallout from that will be the first item to address in the preparation for 2021.