|Dayan Ghanwoloku scored BYU's first points and secured the victory with an OT interception (Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL).|
The BYU Cougars defense intercepted the USC Trojans freshman quarterback three times. The first two in the first half led to 10 points. The third came in overtime to end the game.
The game started, however, with USC marching down the field and scoring a touchdown. It appeared the Trojan QB's second career start was going to be another record breaking affair.
The BYU offense was unable to pick up where it left off in Tennessee. The Cougars punted the ball back to the Trojans less than two minutes later.
On USC's second possession, however, the Cougar defense was ready. Huge Khyiris Tonga sacked the quarterback on first down. Two plays later, linebacker Payton Wilgar intercepted the ball giving the Cougars possession just 28 yards away from the end zone.
Ty'Son Williams rushed for 26 of those yards on the first play of the drive. Facing 3rd and Goal, BYU went back to a special package that worked well in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Austin Kafentzis took the snap under center, and pitched the ball to Dayan Ghanwoloku. He then followed the block of Kafentzis and a couple of defensive linemen for an easy touchdown.
With the game now tied, 7-7, USC didn't back down. After a short gain running the ball on first down, the Trojans threw the ball on second and third down. Both passes were caught, one by a USC receiver, and one by BYU linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi. Kaufusi returned the ball 10 yards to the USC 27-yard line.
BYU used another trick play on first down. This one resembled the one used in overtime against Tennessee. In Knoxville, Aleva Hifo picked up a nice chunk of yards on a reverse in the second overtime on first down. For USC, there was a wrinkle.
BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes called the reverse again. This time backup quarterback quarterback Jaren Hall would run the reverse. He would also pull up and throw the ball back to quarterback Zach Wilson.
The play resulted in a 19-yard gain. After picking up just two yards on the next three plays, BYU had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Jake Oldroyd. The kick put the Cougars up 10-7 with 3:01 still to play in the first quarter.
USC bounced back with a sustained nine-play drive that ended in a field goal to tie the game.
When a holding penalty helped force BYU into a 3rd and 15 situation, there was a feeling the Cougars might be over matched. The Cougars had practically been gifted two scores with the interceptions, and used two gadget plays to get those scores. USC, on the other hand, had shown they could move the ball on the Cougar defense. Another BYU punt seemed imminent, and now that USC had weathered the turnover storm, the Trojans could go down and take control of the game with another long drive.
That's when Wilson found Williams for an 18-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Wilson connected with Moroni Laulu-Pututau for 14 more yards, and Micah Simon for 15 yards two plays later. Facing 3rd and 5 from the USC 30-yard line, Wilson went up top and found Dax Milne for a touchdown.
The touchdown drive didn't just give BYU the lead, again. It made a major statement that they belonged on the same field as the Trojans.
The Cougar D needed to get an edge on that side of the ball. USC pounded the ball down the field and tied the game at 17 with just over five minutes left in the half.
A couple of strong runs and an impressive 25-yard reception by Talon Shumway and the Cougars were quickly back in field goal range. Officials missed a pass interference on 3rd and 10, so BYU had to try a field goal.
The kick was no good. USC took over at its own 27-yard line with two minutes to play. The Trojans quickly moved to the BYU 47-yard line, but on 3rd and 6, Lorenzo Fauatea got into the backfield for a sack.
The momentum of that sack carried with the Cougar D into the second half. The break in play broke up the rhythm for the BYU offense.
BYU received the ball to start the second half, and found itself punting on 4th and 30.
The Cougar D got a tackle for loss on first down, which led to a three and out for the Trojans.
BYU continued to struggle to put together any consistency on offense, and punted to ball back to USC after gaining just 20 yards on eight plays. However, the BYU defense remained stout. Four straight runs by USC led to a punt.
With the game still tied at 17, BYU finally got rolling on offense. BYU moved the ball 78-yards to the USC nine-yard line. USC still controled the line of scrimmage, but smart pass plays were neutralizing the Trojans' advantage in the trenches. Facing 4th and 1, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake decided to go for it, rather than the chip-shot field goal and the lead.
BYU caught USC off guard. The mass substitution to run the same play with Kafentzis and Ghanwoloku had the Trojans expecting field goal. When BYU lined up to run the ball, USC called timeout. Stubbornly, BYU stuck with the play USC knew was coming. This time, Ghanwoloku was stopped for no gain.
USC methodically drove the ball 92 yards and took the lead on a 30-yard touchdown pass with 10:45 to play.
BYU answered by moving the ball quickly into Trojan territory. Wilson completed a 17-yard pass to Hifo followed by a 30-yard completion to Simon. This time, the drive stalled at the USC 14-yard line. This time, BYU took the points, and kicked a 32-yard field goal.
The bad news was BYU trailed by four, 24-20. The good news was the offense's swagger was back.
After getting the ball back when the Cougar D forced a three and out, Wilson hit Gunner Romney for 35 yards on first down. Two plays later, Wilson scrambled 16 yards for a go-ahead touchdown, 27-24.
USC tied the game with a 52-yard field goal with 1:43 to play. Each team had one more chance to try and win the game in regulation, but neither team could score. For the second week in a row, BYU would go to overtime.
BYU was on offense first, and move backwards one yard in three plays. Oldroyd came on and kicked his third field goal of the game to put BYU up 30-27.
The Cougar D had been painfully close to getting another turnover in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. If they had, it was quite likely the game would have ended with BYU victorious after 60 minutes. Instead, they had the pressure of keeping USC to just a field goal, so the game could be prolonged to a second overtime.
USC faced a 3rd and 6 at the 21-yard line. Trusting its freshman quarterback, the familiar script unfolded. He threw into traffic. The ball was tipped, and with the game--literally--hanging in the balance, Ghanwoloku intercepted the ball to secure victory for the Cougars.
The win over 24th ranked USC was the first in program history for BYU.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org