PROVO, UTAH – Fresh off a sometimes-ragged performance in Week 2 and venturing away from home for the first time this season, Paul Chryst’s players talked all week about putting together a complete game and reaffirming the belief they will be a force in the Big Ten and beyond in 2017.
Consider UW’s 40-6 victory Saturday afternoon over BYU an emphatic statement about the potential of this team.
BYU (1-3) entered the game struggling on offense and had to go with a first-time starter at quarterback in redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge, subbing for injured starter Tanner Mangum.
SUMMARY: UW 40, BYU 6
So it wasn’t surprising that UW’s defense, other than an early drive and a blown coverage late in the first half, frustrated the Cougars and silenced a crowd of 61,143.
What impressed most about UW’s performance was the manner in which the offense controlled the ball and capitalized once it reached the red zone.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who struggled after a hot start against Florida Atlantic, completed 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns to lead UW.
His completion rate of 94.7% broke the program mark of 94.4%, set in 1993 by Darrell Bevell (17 of 18) against Northwestern.
Hornibrook was at his best on third down, as he hit 8 of 8 attempts for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
Hornibrook directed three touchdown drives in the first half when UW had the ball four times and built a 24-6 lead.
Tailback Jonathan Taylor started for the second consecutive week and continued his impressive freshman campaign by rushing 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards set the tone for the day on BYU’s first possession with an interception that gave UW the ball at the Cougars’ 35. The pass was the first for Hoge, who finished 11 of 20 for 111 yards.
UW settled for a field goal and BYU then drove 61 yards for a tying field goal, but the Badgers owned the line of scrimmage and had featured more playmakers, particularly on offense, the rest of the way.
The Badgers (3-0), No. 12 in the Amway coaches poll and No. 10 in The Associated Press poll, get a week off before opening Big Ten play on Sept. 30 against visiting Northwestern.
UW put together its most complete opening half through the first three weeks in building a 24-6 lead.
Hornibrook completed 10 of 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Quintez Cephus (5-57-2 TDs, in the half. Hornibrook completed 4 of 4 passes on third down, for 49 yards. Three throws resulted in first downs, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Cephus.
UW’s defense allowed 79 rushing yards on 13 attempts on BYU’s first two possessions which ended with UW holding a 7-3 lead.
UW allowed just one first down and 28 yards on the next two series and the offense capitalized to expand the lead to 24-3.
A late breakdown – a 50-yard pass play from Beau Hoge to Micah Simon to the UW 25 – led to BYU’s second field goal.
Hornibrook found wide receiver A.J. Taylor for an 18-yard score in the third quarter – on third and 8 – to help UW push the lead to 31-6.
His final score was a 19-yarder to tight end Troy Fumagalli – on third and 18 – with seven minutes remaining.
With Hornibrook getting excellent protection and finding receivers all day and with the defense controlling the game for all but a few plays, UW fashioned its best overall performance of 2017.
After a bye week, a run to what the players hope will be a Big Ten title begins in earnest.