|Ty'Son Williams (5) and teammates after the game-winning touchdown in double overtime (Wade Payne, AP).|
For over 59 minutes, it appear the BYU Cougars were headed for another frustrating loss. Play on both sides of the ball was not up to the standard of the BYU brand. Then, Zach Wilson connected with Micah Simon for 64 yards. On the very next play, Jake Oldroyd's 33-yard field goal, with one second left, forced overtime.
It was a night and day difference for the Cougar offense in overtime. After struggling to move the ball all game, the Cougars looked crisp and found the end zone in three plays on a 14-yard pass from Wilson to Talon Shumway. Tennessee answered with a touchdown of its own, followed by a field goal to open the second overtime. However, the BYU offense answered with another three-play touchdown drive to seal victory on Ty'Son Williams' five-yard run.
Even for a religious school with its share of miraculous finishes, the way the game had unfolded, it seemed impossible BYU would get a chance to tie the game at the end.
On the game's opening drive, BYU stalled around midfield and punted to Tennessee. The Volunteers drove down the field and scored a touchdown on a pass that should have been intercepted. The throw went right to a BYU defender at the goal line. It bounced off his hands and went to a Tennessee player to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead.
BYU was able to immediately answer with a field goal. Back-to-back completions by Wilson to Simon and Matt Bushman for 38 total yards moved the Cougars inside the 20-yard line, but a sack and a delay of game penalty caused BYU to come up short on 3rd and 15. That forced BYU to settle for the field goal and close the lead to 7-3.
For the rest of the first half, however, there were few signs that BYU could pull out a victory. Tennessee completed a 51-yard pass, kicked a 51-yard field goal, and had a 53-yard run that helped Tennessee add another three points after being backed up at their own nine-yard line with just 1:30 to play in the second quarter.
Trailing 13-3, BYU came out in the second half and Kavika Fonua intercetped a pass and returned it 20 yards to give the Cougars the ball at the Tennessee 20-yard line. Three plays later, Ty'Son Williams got around the corner and ran the ball in from 16-yards out.
BYU was back within three, 13-10, but the offense couldn't manage to build on the momentum. That caused the Cougar D to wear down, and the game started to resemble the second half of the season opener against Utah.
Tennessee held onto the ball for 6:46 on a 14-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a field goal to extend the lead to 16-10.
Wilson and Simon found a rhythm for BYU, and a couple of good runs helped the Cougars quickly move down the field. The Volunteer defense, however, stiffened and stopped the drive short of the end zone. BYU had to settle for a field goal with 7:18 to play.
Based on offense production the last few years, it was very doubtful BYU could put together a second scoring drive before the end of the game.
After Tennessee ripped off a 27-yard run, there wasn't much confidence the Cougar defense would get a stop. However, they yielded just nine yards on four straight Tennessee run plays to give the Cougar offense the ball back with 4:15 to play.
Less than a minute later, BYU was punting the ball back to Tennessee without even gaining a first down. Nearly all hope was lost.
Knowing Tennessee's intention would be to run out the clock, the Cougar defense was able to force a punt with just over a minute to play. That punt was a 52-yard boot that pinned BYU back at the 16-yard line. BYU had no timeouts left.
BYU was penalized for holding on first down. The Cougars were now 92 yards away from a game winning touchdown. After an incomplete pass, Wilson scrambled for 12 yards, but he failed to get out of bounds. The clock kept running. BYU was still 80 yards away and time was quickly running out.
There was still time for one final prayer. ESPN television cameras flashed to the quarterback's family following the run. Everyone was standing except his mom. She was seated with her eyes closed and hands clasped together.
On the next play, Wilson spotted Simon open, deep in the secondary. The sophomore threw a perfect strike for 64 yards. BYU was able to spike the ball to stop the clock with five seconds left. Oldroyd came on to kick his third field goal of the game. His first two were straight down the middle of the uprights. This one had difficulty hooking left, but some force pushed it just enough to make it through with one second to play.
Tied at 16, the Cougs and Vols headed to overtime.
In overtime, BYU was a different team on offense. Tennessee won the coin toss and chose to play defense first. On the third play, Wilson completed a 14-yard touchdown to Shumway.
All the Cougar D had to do was get a stop, and BYU would win. Tennessee twice converted 3rd and 10 or more with 13-yard passes. The second was in the hands of a Cougar defender, but the Tennessee receiver was close enough to reach back and take it away for a touchdown.
That forced a second overtime. This time, the Cougars would be on defense first. This time, the boys in blue gave up just two yards: a one-yard run and a one-yard pass. That forced Tennessee to settle for a field goal.
Another touchdown for BYU would end the game. The Cougar offense started with a well-executed reverse to Aleva Hifo for a 13-yard gain. Now, it was time to feed Williams. He picked up seven yards, and with the assistance of half the Cougar offense pushing the pile, he scored the game-winning touchdown from five-yards out.
BYU was leaving Rocky Top as 29-26 winners.
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