SALT LAKE CITY — BYU’s mid-season switch to a backup quarterback seemed to pay off in last weekend’s rout of Hawaii. With freshman Zach Wilson starting in place of senior Tanner Mangum, the Cougars scored a season-high 49 points. The kid, who’s barely 19, threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in his starting debut.
BYU was 3-3 and the offense was in a rut when the QB switch was made. This is not the first time BYU has turned to the backup quarterback in an attempt to improve the offense, but how often does it succeed on a sustained basis? As one reader asked in an email: “Has a QB switch, mid-season, ever made much of a difference at BYU?” In other words, as the reader put it, is a bad offense just a bad offense, no matter who is playing quarterback?
BYU coaches have rarely switched starting quarterbacks during the season other than for injury, but when they have, how effective has it been in improving the team? Here is a look at those occasions (spoiler alert: The change has worked about half the time).
BYU was 0-3 and losing to New Mexico 12-0 late in the third quarter when coaches reluctantly turned to sophomore Gifford Nielsen, a Provo native who had started as a freshman on BYU’s basketball team. He was the third-string quarterback behind Mark Giles and Jeff Duva, but in this game Giles was sidelined by a hip injury and Duva was ineffective. In a performance no one saw coming, Nielsen completed 10 of 12 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in a 16-15 win.
Mark Philbrick, BYU
BYU quarterback Gifford Nielsen hands off to Todd Christensen during game against Arizona on Oct. 29, 1977.
As Lee Benson recounted in his book, “And They Came …read more
Source:: Deseret News – Sports News