Inside Darnell’s Head: Expectations high for Wilson, and rightly so
Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s Head.
I want to say, “Thanks, Maddox,” for another terrific meal. The biggest bonus of BYU going to a bowl game was that driving back from Boise brought us right by Maddox.
A lot had to go right for BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson to finish a perfect 18-of-18 passing in Friday’s 49-18 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory against Western Michigan.
Just like in a no-hitter in baseball, or a huge comeback in a basketball game, a number of things have to break your way.
Consider the following:
In the first half, freshman running back Tyler Allgeier caught a swing pass from Wilson for a three-yard loss. At the time, I thought he should have dropped the ball to avoid the loss.
In the third quarter, Wilson had two incomplete passes erased by Western Michigan penalties.
Tight end Matt Bushman stole the ball from a WMU defender in the fourth quarter on a pass down the sideline that certainly looked like it would be intercepted.
On the next play, Dylan Collie was wide open and I thought Wilson overthrew him, but Collie somehow caught up to the ball and snagged it for a 31-yard gain.
So, yeah, Wilson caught a few breaks. But he also threw some absolute darts.
His second touchdown throw to Collie — an 8-yard score — was thrown from the right hash to the far left corner of the end zone and just past the outstretched hands of a defender. Wilson made it look effortless.
Wilson’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo was gorgeous. He hit Hifo — who made the one-handed catch — in stride 50 yards down the field with just a whip of his arm.
He’s the real deal, folks.
Live it up It was less than an hour after Wilson’s performance that naysayers on social media started telling fans to “pump the brakes” on the praise for Wilson and pointed out that Jake Heaps also threw four touchdown passes as a freshman in a bowl game.
You know what? Believe your own eyes. If I have to explain to you the difference between what Wilson did on Friday and Jake Heaps, I don’t think we can be friends.
If you’re a BYU fan, enjoy the next eight months speculating about how good Wilson can be. The Cougars have finally given you something to cheer about.
Live it up. Being in a fandom is all about suffering through down times and enjoying the victories.
Vinnie Lopes from the “Off the Block” website previewed each Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men’s volleyball team this week. Under “notable losses” Lopes referred to departed seniors Leo Durkin, Brenden Sander and Price Jarman and also mentioned “SID Royce Hinton.”
Most BYU volleyball fans don’t know “The Royster,” but they’ve certainly seen his work if they read social media or spend any time on the BYU athletic department website. Hinton recently left for another job in Salt Lake City.
Point is, sports information directors do vital work and they are a huge help to us media types.
Have a great holiday, Royce.
Fortunately, BYU hit a home run with his replacement in Jordan Christiansen. I might be a bit biased because long, long ago I hired Jordan as a stringer at the Daily Herald, but he’s a good one.
Lopes also mentioned under “notable returners” that BYUtv play-by-play announcer Jarom Jordan was coming back. You probably know Jordan from his gig on BYU Sports Nation but he’s also one of the premier college volleyball announcers in the country. He and his announcing partner, Steve Vail, are as entertaining as any broadcasting tandem in the country. Give them a listen.
The fifth-ranked Cougars open the season on Jan. 10 against Ohio State.
Falling to the middle
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the BYU men’s basketball team looks like a sixth-place finisher in the West Coast Conference right now.
Gonzaga dominates the WCC like me going one-on-none at the Orem Rec Center on Monday mornings. BYU was picked to finish third behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s but unless the Cougars make a real commitment to defensive effort and focus, that’s too optimistic.
The league is much more competitive beneath Gonzaga this year. San Diego (10-3), San Francisco (12-1) and Loyola Marymount (11-2) are all playing better than BYU in the preseason and the Cougars haven’t won at Saint Mary’s since 2014.
Sixth place? The program is better than that. The players are better than that. Yet here we are.
The obvious answer BYU coach Kalani Sitake was asked about the difference in the passing game from the first half to the second half in Friday’s 49-18 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win against Western Michigan.
“I don’t know, probably just threw it further,” Sitake answered with a laugh.
Wilson was 8-of-8 for 95 yards in the first half. In the second, he was 10-of-10 for 220 in the second.
Hopefully, BYU can be No. 1 next year in something other than field goal defense.
I got a laugh out of Sitake mimicking eating the fake potatoes that came with the bowl trophy. I heard senior offensive lineman Lui Lapuahu actually took a bite out of one. It was probably in response to ESPN sideline reporter Alex Corddy congratulating the “BYU Tigers” for their win the bowl game.
She meant well.
The right finish
I spied BYU senior quarterback Tanner Mangum leaving the field after shaking hands with the Western Michigan players with the football from his final snap tucked firmly underneath his arm.
You earned it, Tanner.
Finally, I was so good this year I treated myself to a new tablet for Christmas. Hope you were good, too. Have a cool Yule and a frantic First, as my mom used to say.