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BYU Football - Kalani Sitake - Boca Raton Bowl
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Instant Analysis: BYU Proves They Are Special Team In Rout Of UCF

BOCA RATON, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Kalani Sitake of the Brigham Young Cougars gets a Powerade bath after beating the Central Florida Knights 49-23 at FAU Stadium on December 22, 2020 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Florida – BYU football crushed UCF in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl, 49-23 in a game that was all BYU from the opening kickoff.

Records: BYU 11-1, UCF 6-4

Why BYU Football Won

Elite offensive execution led by Zach Wilson and a perfect scouting report on defense. Coming into this game, many believed this would be a high-scoring matchup where both teams would put up points. BYU held up their end of the deal, but UCF didn’t due to the suffocating defense from BYU.

The Cougar offense got things started with a touchdown on the opening possession on a 15-yard touchdown run by Zach Wilson. Wilson ended his night with 425 yards passing and 12 yards rushing while accounting for five touchdowns in the win.

BYU never looked back from there because the defense was dialed in on UCF’s uptempo attack.

Linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi who was banged up coming into the game, said he credited the scouting report and game plan from the defensive coaches and called it the best game plan he’s seen during his career at BYU.

UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel never could get into a rhythm in this game. He had nearly three interceptions in the game, all of which were ruled drops or negated by a penalty. The physicality from BYU’s defense made life difficult on the Knights.

Biggest Takeaway

Any doubt that was creeping into BYU football fans’ minds about the legitimacy of this 2020 BYU football team were erased in the Boca Raton Bowl. After the loss to Coastal Carolina, it could have been easy to suggest that BYU’s 10-win regular season was simply a byproduct of a weak schedule. Now, it’s not easy to say that.

UCF is one of the winningest programs in college football the past three seasons. The Knights entered Tuesday’s bowl matchup winners of 41 of their last 48 games. UCF wins at a high level, but BYU does it better in 2020.

The College Football Playoff Committee was never impressed with BYU this season. That’s fine. We all know that’s a P5 invitational at best, and it continues to lose credibility with each Top 25 poll it reveals. 2020 marks the first time BYU put together an 11-win season since 2009. It’s the first one-loss season since 1996.

Those are numbers that don’t happen every day in BYU football history. When a special team arrives, you pay your respects. Everything that BYU did to dominate a talented and capable UCF team showed how special this BYU is. And they did in front of a national stage with the college football world watching.

Player of the Game

Who else? BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson.

Will this be his last game? It sure feels like the time is now for him to declare for the NFL Draft. He’s now creeping into the conversation of QB No. 2 status behind Trevor Lawrence. Will it be Wilson or Ohio State’s Justin Fields as the next QB off the board in April’s draft? That’s how far Wilson has come this season, and his career-high 425 yards showed how brilliant he could be when he is dealing like he was on Tuesday.

It’s easy for all of us to say that he needs to go. But you only get one chance to be a star college football player. If, and it might be a big if, Wilson comes back to BYU in 2021, the Cougars would be a preseason Top 25 team, and he would be a favorite for next year’s Heisman Trophy.

But the counter-argument, the NFL isn’t patient. Go to the league while the iron is hot and get straight paid. Wilson said he would likely decide before New Year’s on what he will do with his football career moving forward.

Play of the Game

Lopini Katoa’s full-extension catch

There are a lot of plays to pick from in BYU’s Boca Raton Bowl victory. I considered the touchdown from Wilson to Neil Pau’u that was an absolute laser beam. But I had to go with Katoa’s diving catch. You don’t see a full-extension grab like that very often. He deserves props for that catch. It’s one of the better catches I’ve seen from a BYU player in the last decade. Maybe the best since Cody Hoffman’s grab against Georgia Tech with a defender draped all over him.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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