Western Kentucky lost their head coach and play caller Jeff Brohm, as Brohm took the Purdue head coaching job after the regular season ended. So wide receivers coach Bryan Ellis got the assignment of calling plays. The 28 year old former UAB quarterback and assistant coach excelled in that position last night as the Hilltoppers rolled up 598 total yards of offense and crushed the Memphis Tigers, 51-31, at the Boca Raton Bowl. Interim head coach Nick Holt, who was the defensive coordinator and coached the defense during the game, is a case study in sociopathic behavior, but Ellis was superb. His future in the coaching profession looks extremely bright.
Anthony Wales rushed for 245 yards and 3 sevens, and caught four passes for 84 yards. He was spectacular. Quarterback Mike White completed 20-of-30 passes for 336 yards, 3 TDs and 1 int, and wide receiver Taywan Taylor pulled in 9 passes for 144 yards and a 7.
Superb effort by the offense under the direction of the former UAB quarterback who threw for 2,940 yards and 25 touchdowns in his final year at UAB in 2010. As a senior in high school at Peach County High School in Byron, GA., Ellis passed for 3,600 yards and 31 TDs and led his team to a 14-1 record and a Georgia Class AAA State Championship. Quite a future ahead for Coach Ellis. Stellar performance by Western Ky last night. Mike Sanford comes over from Notre Dame as their new head coach and the 34 year old will inherit a good program. I watched Sanford in his TV interview on the sideline last night and was very impressed. He also coached under Chris Peterson at Boise State and had major success with those highly successful teams at Boise State during Peterson's tenure. Sanford's first coaching hire should be Ellis if he can get him. Brohm may try to beat Sanford to the punch and hire him at Purdue. Ellis is something else.
BYU (8-4, FBS independent) vs Wyoming (8-5, 6-2 Mountain West)
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, 70,561
8 PM CT/9 PM ET
Talent: Jason Benetti, Kelly Stouffer, Paul Carcaterra
Whistles: MAC, Greg Blum, lead launderer
This will be a battle of two stellar running backs and two fine quarterbacks, though the BYU quarterback hasn't played since the 2015 bowl game, but is a talent. Here's a look at each team.
Jamaal Williams only played in 9 games this season due to injury, but the senior tailback rushed for 1,165 yards and 11 TDs. The 6'2", 215 pounder is superb and healthy. BYU starting quarterback Taysom Hill injured his elbow the last game of the season and he's out for the bowl game. HIll is talented but has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Sophomore Tanner Magnum is a more than capable replacement. Mangum played the entire season last year with HIll hurt and did a really nice job. He's an outstanding passer. He's not the running threat that Hill is, but he's got a rocket and he's very accurate. In four games this season, he was 14-of-18, 78%, for 145 yards and two TDs. In 2015, as a true freshman, he completed 267-of-446 passes, 60%, for 3,377 yards, 23 TDs against 10 ints. He's a stud. So I still like BYU with Mangum under center. Nick Kurtz is a 6'6", 215 pound receiver who caught 46 passes for 482 yards and 2 sevens this season. He's a very good target. Colby Pearson caught 36 passes for 366 yards and 4 TDs.
On defense the Cougars finished tied for fourth in the country in interceptions with 19. San Diego State, which crushed Houston in the Vegas Bowl on Saturday, 34-10, led the country with 26 ints. Wisconsin was next with 21, then App State with 20, and BYU, Ohio State and Washington had 19 apiece. Those are all very good teams. Free safety Kai Nacua led the Cougars with 5 ints. Freshman corner Fred Warner, outside linebacker Francis Bernard and cornerback Dayan Lake each had an int that they took back to the house. Warner and Bernard had three ints apiece and Lake picked off a couple.
Bernard leads the team in tackles with 80, and defensive end Sae Tautu leads the team in tackles for loss with 10.5 for -39 yards and sacks with 6 for -31 yards. So this is a solid defense for the Cougars as well.
Brian Hill was fourth in the country in rushing with 1,767 yards. San Diego State's Donnell Pumphrey led the nation with 2,133 yards. Hill is a super player and added 21 touchdowns to his resume this season. He is a 6'1", 219 pound junior and could be a solid draft choice after this season and even better after next season. And so will BYU's Williams after this season. 6'5", 222 pound sophomore quarterback Josh Allen completed 192-of-341 passes for 2,996 yards, 26 TDs against 13 interceptions. ESPN draft guru Todd McShay likes Allen to be a high draft pick when he goes out either after the 2017 season or after 2018. He's a fine player. 6'2", 210 senior Tanner Gentry leads the team in receptions with 65 for 1,213 yards and 12 TDs. Sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard leads the team in tackles with 128 and has 7.5 tackles for loss of -36 yards along with 2 sacks. Defensive end Kevin Prosser, 6'2", 215, leads the team in tackles for loss with 10 for -53 yards, and sacks with 5.5 for -30 yards. The Cowboys also are a good team at interceptions with 14. Outside linebacker Logan Wilson, strong safety Marcus Epps, and cornerback Antonio Hill each had 3. Wilson, Epps and nose tackle Chase Appleby each took one back to the house. So a pretty opportunistic, hard-nosed group on defense as you would expect at Wyoming, the land of ranchers, loggers and cowboys.
I like Wyoming's team. Brian Hill is an outstanding back and Josh Allen is an excellent quarterback with tremendous upside. Like their opportunistic ability on defense. But I like BYU's team better. BYU is more physical. I see Williams and Mangum having big nights and their defense slowing down Hill, Allen and the offense. I see the Cougars winning kind of handily in San Diego.
BYU 38, Wyoming 27