PROVO, Utah (AP) — BYU faced a four-quarter test for the first time this season and did just enough to stay undefeated.
Zach Wilson threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns and Tyler Allgeier ran for 116 yards and a score to lead the No. 15 Cougars past UTSA 27-20 on Saturday.
BYU (4-0) equaled the team’s best start since 2014 while rolling up 472 yards.
Allgeier posted his second 100-yard game of his career to help rescue an inconsistent BYU offense. The Cougars struggled to finish drives, but still found the end zone at critical junctures in the second half to prevent UTSA from earning its first-ever victory over a ranked foe.
“Learning from a win is always the best way to do it,” Wilson said. “These guys came out to play. We didn’t execute and we put ourselves in some tough situations.”
Lowell Narcisse threw for a season-high 229 yards and two touchdowns – all after halftime – on 17-of-20 passing to lead the Roadrunners. Narcisse came on in relief of starter Frank Harris who took a shot to the lower body in the first half. Harris remained on the sidelines in the second half as a precautionary measure.
Narcisse rose to the occasion. UTSA (3-2) became the first opponent to truly challenge BYU but fell short of earning the upset, despite averaging 7.6 yards per play in the second half.
“Every time I put him out there, he plays great,” UTSA coach Jeff Traylor said. “The decision was made by me and it was a coaching decision based on what I felt was best for Frank and our team at that time.”
BYU trailed for the first time this season when UTSA took a 3-0 lead on a 39-yard field goal from Hunter Duplessis in the first quarter.
The Cougars, who came in averaging 49 points per game, short-circuited a couple of times in the opening quarter, fumbling at the UTSA 10 and failing to convert on fourth-and-6 from the Roadrunner 40.
It was first quarter this season that BYU did not score a touchdown.
“They did some things to make us uncomfortable,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “They did some things we haven’t seen other teams do and we need to have an answer.”
Neil Pau’u finally broke the ice when he snagged a 4-yard tiptoe catch from Wilson on fourth down to put the Cougars ahead 7-3. Lopini Katoa hauled in a short play-action pass and raced 11 yards untouched into the end zone to extend BYU’s lead to 14-3 late in the second quarter.
Narcisse gave the Roadrunner offense life after halftime. His first touchdown pass, a 32-yarder to Zakhari Franklin, narrowed the Cougar lead to 21-13 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars took 6:11 off the clock on 12 play, 80-yard scoring drive to give themselves some breathing room. Allgeier capped the drive by hurdling a defender and sprinting into the end zone on a 6-yard run, giving BYU a 27-13 lead with 2:18 remaining.
“I knew we weren’t in trouble,” receiver Dax Milne said. “We just needed to clean up a couple of things and we’d be all right.”
UTSA made it a one-possession game again on Brennon Dingle’s 34-yard TD catch with 1:01 left. The Roadrunners forced a punt, but BYU was able to run out the clock following a roughing the punter penalty with 15 seconds left.
“I’m concerned about my team mentally and physically just for playing five games where we have gone right down to the last play in all five of them with no open week,” Traylor said, noting another tough opponent in Army awaits UTSA.
UTSA: For much of the game, the Roadrunners found a way to slow down BYU’s powerful offense. UTSA could not capitalize enough after struggling to move the chains on too many drives, even after making a change at quarterback.
BYU: The Cougars shook off early struggles at finishing drives by relying on tough defense. They held the Roadrunners to 101 yards before halftime and came up with crucial stops when UTSA tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback.
UTSA suffered a costly penalty on BYU’s final scoring drive when Rashad Wisdom hit Neil Pau’u in the back with his helmet following a 2-yard catch by Pau’u on second down. Wisdom was ejected for targeting following the play. It marked the second consecutive game that the sophomore safety ended up being ejected for targeting.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
With his first two passes on BYU’s opening drive, Wilson reached 1,000 passing yards in a season. The junior did so in the fewest attempts (73) of any Cougar quarterback. Wilson also topped 5,000 career passing yards, becoming the 15th BYU quarterback to do so.
BYU may not experience much upward movement in the AP Top 25 after struggling with UTSA.
UTSA hosts Army on Saturday.
BYU visits Houston on Friday.