The stretch race for Virginia Football begins with a road game against former Bronco team Mendenhall. This will be the first meeting between Bronco and BYU, and there are bound to be some complex feelings that affect Mendenhall and some of his assistant coaches who all started their careers in Provo.
Let’s take a look at the Cougars.
Post-season: Boca Raton Bowl, 49-23 win over UCF
Led by 2021 NFL Draft No. 2 pick Zach WIlson, the Cougars finished 11-1 and were ranked No. 16 at the end of the regular season. They blasted UCF into the Boca Raton bowl, showing why they had one of the best offenses in the nation. BYU’s offense ranked sixth in the nation in total offense and third in scoring offense for the season.
Wilson threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions while rushing for over 250 yards and 10 more touchdowns. Tyler Allgeier rushed for 1,130 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Daz Milne led the team with 70 catches for 1,188 yards and eight touchdowns. Tight end Isaac Rex actually led the team with 12 touchdowns (on 37 total receptions).
On the other side of the ball, the defense finished 10th overall in the country. They were led by Isaiah Kaufusi, who had 83 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, all of which led the team. He also had an interception which he picked up for BYU’s only defensive TD of the season.
This team finished the season third nationally in points and fourth in point defense. That’s pretty impressive and a big part of why they finished 11-1. Replicating this success for another season will not be so easy.
Key returners: RB Tyler Allgeier, WR Gunner Romney, LB Keenan Pili, LB Payton Wilgar, S George Udo
Key starts: QB Zach Wilson (NFL), OL Grady Christensen (NFL), DT Khyiris Tonga (NFL), Isaiah Kaufusi (NFL)
New key faces: WR Puka Nacua (Washington) and Samson Nacua (Utah)
This team has lost a ton compared to last year. Obviously, Wilson is the most high-profile loss, but they also need to replace WR leader Daz Milne and three-fifths of their offensive line. Things could be even worse for the defense, which is losing seven of the top 10 tacklers. Kaufusi is gone, although his younger brother Jackson continues the Kaufusi tradition at BYU. Along with Jackson and Isaiah, their cousins Branson and Corbin also played at BYU. Branson and Corbin’s dad played in the NFL and then was a DL coach at BYU and their mom is the mayor of Provo, UT. This family has been a big boost for BYU both on and off the field.
After last season’s highs, it’s likely been a bad season for BYU as they develop their next QB. OL are also rebuilding on the fly and the defense must replace both their top LB and DL.
All-time record against BYU: 3-2
Last meeting: 2014, BYU won 41-33
This will be the sixth meeting of all time between these two schools. All-time Virginia leads 3-2, with one of those wins at Provo, where this game is happening. The last time Virginia went to Provo, the Cougars used a strong second half to beat the QB duo of Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns.
This streak will continue as BYU arrives in Charlottesville in 2023 and Virginia returns to Utah in 2025.