Flashback: Walsh's Wrath

BYU QB John Walsh, 1991-94.

There has been a lot of great quarterback play for the BYU Cougars over the years. Those quarterbacks have produced a countless number of outstanding games, but it is extremely hard to find a three-game stretch from another quarterback that rivals what John Walsh did in 1993.

Three games is, actually, a bit of an overstatement. It was more like two and a half.

On October 16, the number three ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish came to Provo. Walsh was out of the game with a knee injury before the end of the first quarter. Fans in attendance were unaware of the injury. When they saw Tom Young come in to replace Walsh, they cheered the move. That had to hurt, possibly more than his knee.

Maybe it was hearing the fans celebrate his departure. Maybe it was just his competitive fire igniting by not being able to finish such a high-profile game, or by coaches telling him they were going to be cautious and not play him at the beginning of the next game. Whatever it was, something unleashed a fury in Walsh.

Once he got on the field again, that fury fuelled him, and the next three opponents suffered Walsh's wrath.

BYU was trailing the Fresno State Bulldogs 17-3 with just a couple of minutes left in the first half. Young had just thrown two interceptions in relief of starter Steve Clements. The Cougar coaching staff finally let Walsh play. He promptly took BYU downfield and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kalin Hall. That closed the gap to 17-10 with just seconds remaining in the first half.

Walsh showed in the second half that his initial drive wasn't a fluke. He came out of the locker room and threw four more touchdowns.

The Cougars trailed by 17 with just 10:45 left in the game. Walsh drove BYU to two touchdowns in 4:15 to make it a three point game, 41-38. The Cougar defense wasn't able to get a stop, so with 4:59 to play, BYU still needed two scores to win. Walsh completed passes of 20 yards, 23 yards, 10 yards, and 35 yards for the touchdown to Micah Matsuzaki.

It took just 1:16. Plenty of time to score again, but BYU wouldn't get the ball back.

Although the Cougars lost, Walsh acquitted himself well. It was easily the best game of his career. Up to this point, Walsh hadn't passed for more than 384 yards or had a pass efficiency rating over 183. In less than 30 minutes of game time, since BYU didn't have the ball for the final 3:43, Walsh completed 22 of 35 passes for 439 yards, and five touchdowns with no interceptions. His pass efficiency rating was 215.36.

By comparison, Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer played the entire game and had 456 yards passing.

The next week, BYU travelled to Logan for an in-state showdown with Utah State. Walsh would be without number one target Eric Drage, BYU's all-time leader in receiving yards. Yet, a special day seemed imminent after a one-handed 72-yard touchdown catch by Jamal Willis in the first quarter. Walsh wouldn't throw his second touchdown of the day until the third quarter, but with BYU trailing 44-28 in the fourth quarter, Walsh would throw three more.

Each of Walsh's three fourth quarter touchdowns were over 40 yards long. The average length was 66 yards; that's 198 yards on three passes. The first was 93 yards to Tyler Anderson. It is still the second longest pass play in BYU football history. Steve Christensen went 63 yards with a Walsh throw for the next touchdown, and Matsuzaki scored the final touchdown from 42 yards out with 59 seconds to play.

Once again, BYU came up short on the score board, but Walsh played an amazing game. He completed 27 of 44 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. That is still a BYU record for most passing yards in a game, and he is the only BYU quarterback to pass for over 600 yards in a game. Going into the 2017 season, Walsh's total was still the 13th most passing yards in a game in NCAA history. He also set two NCAA records that still stood entering the 2017 season.

1. Most Yards Gained Per Attempt in a game (min. 40 attempts): 14.1
2. Most Yards Gained Per Completion in a game (min. 22 completions): 22.9

It was also Walsh's second consecutive game with a pass efficiency rating over 200 (207.95).

As impressive as these two outing were, Walsh's wrath would not be quenched without tasting victory. San Diego State with Marshall Faulk was next on the docket. A monster game from Walsh would be the only way BYU could come out of California with a win.

Walsh threw two first quarter touchdown passes. That went a long way to helping BYU not have to dig itself out of a big hole as it had the previous two weeks. However, BYU found itself down by seven in the third quarter after a 71-yard touchdown run by Faulk. Walsh and the Cougar offense then rattled off 21 straight points. Two of the three touchdowns were long passes to Christensen (63 and 39 yards). That put BYU up 45-31 with 13:03 to play, which turned out to be enough as BYU held on for a 45-44 win.

Walsh also had a long 47-yard pass completion to Matsuzaki during the game. That helped Walsh nearly match his NCAA record from the week before for yards per completion with 21.9.

For the game, Walsh completed 19 of 35 passes for 417 yards. He had his third straight five-touchdown game. His completion percentage was down, which kept his pass efficiency below 200, but it was still a very impressive 195.8.

That made three consecutive games with at least 45 points scored, with at least 400 yards passing, with at least five touchdown passes, with at least an average of 19.95 yards per completion and 11.9 yards per attempt, and with a pass completion at least 57 yards long.

Walsh had silenced his critics with his play. He proved he could play quarterback at an elite level.

   Att.  Comp.   %  Yards  TD  Int  Long  Pass Eff. 
 Fresno St. 
 Utah St.  
 San Diego St.  

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