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Every BYU Football Season-Opening Starter At Quarterback Since 2000

Zach Wilson was the starter for BYU to open the 2020 season at Navy. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football is set to break in a new starting quarterback to kick off the 2021 season. The successor to Zach Wilson is Jaren Hall. Hall will be the 11th different season-opening starter in the 21st century of the BYU program.

Do you remember all of those quarterbacks over the years? Time to hop in the BYU Football DeLorean and gun it back to 2000.

Let’s look back on how the BYU starting QBs have fared in season openers this century.

2000: Bret Engemann vs. Florida State (Pigskin Classic)

No. 2 Florida State 29, BYU 3

BYU turned chose a two-quarterback system heading into the Pigskin Classic against the defending National Champion Florida State Seminoles. Provo native Bret Engemann got the first crack at the Noles, with Charlie Peterson seeing time as well.

BYU was no match for the Seminoles, who were at the peak of their dynasty in Tallahassee. The No. 2 ranked Seminoles rolled to a 29-3 victory.

Passing: 12-of-28 for 139 yards

Rushing 4 rushes for (-30) yards

2001: Brandon Doman vs. Tulane (BCA Classic)

BYU 70, Tulane 35

After guiding BYU football to a pair of victories to close out the LaVell Edwards era in 2000, Brandon Doman got that starting nod to kick off Gary Crowton’s tenure at BYU.

Doman kicked off the Crowton era with a bang.

The former Skyline High star was a perfect fit in Crowton’s high-powered offensive scheme. As a result, BYU football put up an eye-popping 70 points against Tulane.

Passing: 25-of-31 for 286 yards, 3 TDs

Rushing: 11 carries for 116 yards, 1 TD

2002: Bret Engemann vs. Syracuse

BYU 42, Syracuse 21

Engemann was back as the opening week starter in 2002 after the graduation of Brandon Doman. Crowton picked Engemann over the likes of Matt Berry, Lance Pendleton, and the nation’s No. 1 recruit in Ben Olsen.

Engemann shined in the nationally televised Thursday night event, guiding BYU to a 42-21 win over Paul Pasqualoni’s Orange.

Passing: 35-of-54 for 386 yards, 3 TDs

Rushing: 8 carries for 38 yards, 1 TD

2003: Matt Berry vs. Georgia Tech

BYU 24, Georgia Tech 13

Heralded recruit Matt Berry finally got his shot in his sophomore year. Berry got the starting nod over John Beck and Todd Mortensen. Like the two previous season-opening QBs in the Crowton era, Berry shined in the 2003 opener against Georgia Tech.

Berry led BYU to a 24-13 win, securing the program’s first win over Georgia Tech.

Passing: 31-of-46 for 276 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Rushing: 5 rushes for (-14) yards

2004: John Beck vs. Notre Dame

BYU 20, Notre Dame 17

The John Beck era officially kicked off for BYU in an ESPN primetime game against Notre Dame in Provo. Yes, you read that right; Notre Dame played at BYU.

Anyways, Beck beat out Matt Berry to win the starting job in 2004. The future NFL draft pick shined in fall camp. Every day reporters were talking about how Beck connected with Todd Watkins for a deep touchdown pass.

Early in the first half against the Irish, Beck displayed that big arm that had reporters raving in camp. Proving that “flying around” was right for once.

BYU jumped out to a 10-0 lead until Beck injured his shoulder in the second quarter. Matt Berry stepped and BYU barely hung on to secure a 20-17 win.

Passing: 7-of-10 for 96 yards

Rushing: 3 carries for 12 yards

2005: John Beck vs. Boston College

Boston College 20, BYU 3

The Bronco Mendenhall era kicked off with a tough matchup against Boston College. Robert Anae was hired away from Texas Tech to be BYU’s offensive coordinator. Anae brought with him Mike Leach’s signature “Air Raid” offense.

There was a lot of action through the air for BYU. The only problem was that it took place between the 20s and didn’t find the end zone that entire afternoon. John Beck tossed 60 passes in the game, and BYU ended up with three points in a 20-3 loss to the Eagles that had Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end.

Passing: 41-of-60 for 330 yards

Rushing: 6 rushes for (-19) yards

2006: John Beck at Arizona

Arizona 16, BYU 13

John Beck’s senior year was one of the best individual quarterback seasons this century by a BYU QB. But it started with a dud in the desert against Arizona.

Beck, who played through injured ankles in that game, was good but not great. Leading many around Cougar Nation to wonder if Beck had “it” as a BYU QB. He sure did later that season, but they had to face early adversity that season.

Passing: 28-of-37 for 289 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: 5 rushes for (-15) yards

2007: Max Hall vs. Arizona

BYU 20, Arizona 7

Arizona State transfer Max Hall became the successor to John Beck in the 2007 season. Hall beat out JUCO Player of the Year Cade Cooper. It was a heated battle until Cooper suffered an injury in the spring game.

That worked out for the BYU football program as Max Hall became the winningest QB in Cougar history, and it all started with a little bit of revenge over Arizona.

Passing: 26-of-39 for 288 yards

Rushing: 4 carries for 4 yards

2008: Max Hall vs. Northern Iowa

No. 16 BYU 41, Northern Iowa 17

The “Quest for Perfection” began with a rare opener against an FCS team. Hall was nearly perfect in week one against an overmatched Northern Iowa squad.

Passing: 34-of-41 for 486 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: 3 carries for 4 yards, 1 TD

2009: Max Hall vs. Oklahoma

No. 20 BYU 14, No. 3 Oklahoma 13

BYU opened the Dallas Cowboys Stadium with one of the best wins in the Cougars’ storied history.

Led by senior Max Hall, BYU took down No. 3 Oklahoma. Something Hall guaranteed when he was walking trotting into the locker room. He said, “We’re gonna win this game!” BYU entered the game against the national runner-up Sooners as a three-touchdown underdog and then did the unthinkable. Leading BYU fans to collectively say, “Oh my go…or whatever they say in Provo.”

Passing: 26-of-38 for 329 yards, 2 TDs & 2 INTs

Rushing: 6 carries for (-8) yards

2010: Riley Nelson vs. Washington

BYU 23, Washington 17

Once Max Hall graduated, it was the dawn of a new era for BYU. The Cougars had a heated QB battle between Riley Nelson and freshman Jake Heaps. Mendenhall chose a two-QB system, alternating the QBs each drive against Washington, coached by BYU alum Steve Sarkisian.

Riley Nelson took the first drive and earned the distinction of being the opening day starter.

The unique setup worked as BYU knocked off the Huskies. Both quarterbacks passed for the same amount of yards, 131.

Passing: 11-of-17 for 131 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: 8 carries for 45 yards

2011: Jake Heaps at Ole Miss

BYU 14, Ole Miss 13

Ten years after being a season-opening QB for BYU, Brandon Doman was the Cougars offensive coordinator for the first time in 2011. The goal? Bring the BYU offense of old back and maximize the talents of the heralded Jake Heaps.

Well, one trip to SEC Country brought down the lofty expectations for the offense down significantly. BYU was trailing a bad Ole Miss 13-0 in the fourth quarter. Heaps found Ross Apo for a touchdown to cut the deficit, and then Kyle Van Noy took care of the rest to secure the win.

Passing: 24-of-38 for 225 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: 2 rushes for (-18) yards

2012: Riley Nelson vs. Washington State

BYU 30, Washington State 6

Riley Nelson had BYU dreaming big in 2012 after spoiling Mike Leach’s coaching debut at Washington State. The 30-6 win in front of a nationally-televised opening night of college football audience placed BYU immediately into the national conversation.

Passing: 25-of-36 for 285 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: 12 carries for 18 yards

2013: Taysom Hill at Virginia

Virginia 19, BYU 16

The beginning of the Go Fast, Go Hard offense at BYU was not pretty.

Taysom Hill’s first season-opening start was a struggle. BYU’s tempo had the offense all out of sorts against a bad Virginia team. Nevertheless, the Hoos secured their lone victory over an FBS team in 2013 against BYU.

Passing: 13-of-40 for 175 yards, 1 TD & 1 INT

Rushing: 11 carries for 42 yards, 1 TD

2014: Taysom Hill at UConn

BYU 35, UConn 10

One year after the debacle at Virginia, Taysom and BYU’s offense with Robert Anae began to find its groove.

BYU football went across the country to face Bob Diaco and the UConn Huskies when they still appeared to be a halfway respectable program.

Hill was brilliant, accounting for all five of BYU’s touchdowns.

BYU crushed UConn 35-10. Thus, setting the stage for BYU to take the nation by storm with a 4-0 start to the season.

Passing: 28-of-36 for 308 yards, 3 TDs

Rushing: 12 carries for 98 yards, 2 TDs

2015: Taysom Hill at Nebraska

BYU 33, Nebraska 28

Alright, I’ll say it, the performance I saw from Taysom Hill against Nebraska made me think I was looking at college football’s next Heisman winner in 2015.

Coming back from a leg injury, Hill came back with a vengeance, slicing and dicing the Cornhuskers in Mike Riley’s debut as head coach.

There was nothing Taysom couldn’t do in that game. The man even scored a rushing touchdown after suffering a lisfranc injury.

Tanner Mangum, months after completing his Latter-day Saint mission in Chile, stepped in to give BYU the “Miracle at Memorial.”

I’ll often ask myself what could have been for Taysom in 2015. He was sensational in that game against Nebraska.

Passing: 21-of-34 for 268 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: 9 carries for 72 yards, 2 TDs

2016: Taysom Hill vs. Arizona

BYU 18, Arizona 16

Taysom Hill took advantage of the medical redshirt he received from the NCA by returning to BYU for one more season.

Kalani Sitake was now the head coach and Ty Detmer was the offensive coordinator.

Detmer brought with him an old-school Pro-Style attack. It was great for Taysom to learn an NFL-style playbook, but the scheme wasn’t the best fit for the do-it-all athlete.

BYU’s offense at times struggled against Arizona, but they put together a late drive to set up a game-winning field goal from Jake Oldroyd.

Passing: 21-of-29 for 202 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: 11 carries for 37 yards

2017: Tanner Mangum vs. Portland State

BYU 20, Portland State 6

Once Taysom Hill completed his eligibility, the keys to BYU’s QB position were instantly handed to Tanner Mangum.

Mangum, who two years prior, was a Freshman sensation passing for over 3,000 yards in 2015, was BYU’s QB1. There was no competition, no uncertainty; the job was Mangum’s.

The lack of competition to earn the position, paired with a bad offensive scheme, produced lackluster results against a bad FCS team.

BYU took down Portland, but it wasn’t a dominant performance you’d expect against a lower-level team.

Passing: 16-of-27 for 194 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: 4 carries for (-3) yards

2018: Tanner Mangum at Arizona

BYU 28, Arizona 23

It’s crazy to think now, but BYU entered a game at Arizona as a double-digit underdog. Arizona QB Khalil Tate was all the talk of the college football world, even gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated. Tanner Mangum had a hard-fought QB battle in camp with freshman Zach Wilson.

Mangum took care of the football and BYU’s low-risk game plan worked against a Wildcats team that was a bit overrated.

Passing: 18-of-28 for 209 yards, 1 TD

Rushing: 3 carries for 0 yards

2019: Zach Wilson vs. Utah

No. 14 Utah 30, BYU 12

Coming off a perfect performance as a freshman in the 2018 Potato Bowl, there was a lot of excitement surrounding Zach Wilson and the BYU football team heading into their rivalry game with Utah. BYU squandered a 27-7 lead against the Utes the year prior. Unfortunately, for BYU’s sake, it wasn’t as close the following year.

Utah was one of the best teams in college football in 2019, and Wilson wasn’t fully healthy as he was coming back from shoulder surgery.

Passing: 21-of-33 for 208 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

Rushing: 8 carries for 43 yards

2020: Zach Wilson at Navy

BYU 55, Navy 3

Once BYU football was able to add Navy to its schedule, making it clear that the Cougars would play a season, Zach Wilson had the stage to silence his critics. And he silenced them alright.

When comparing Wilson’s performance against Navy to the rest of the magical 2020 season, it wasn’t one of the top games of his season. But he showed a lively arm that had evaded him in 2019, along with pinpoint accuracy.

The dominating win on Labor Day night catapulted the BYUfootball program into the national rankings, and the Cougars were in the national conversation the rest of the season.

Passing: 13-of-18 for 232 yards, 2 TDs & 1 INT

Rushing: 2 carries for 7 yards

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 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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