SALT LAKE CITY — BYU headed south for a showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers in what was arguably a must-win game for both teams as they looked to get their seasons headed in the right direction.
BYU looked sloppy for much of the game and headed into halftime down 13-3 and next to no momentum. Late in the fourth the Cougars were down 3 and managed to expose a coverage problem on the Volunteer defense to complete a 64-yard pass with only seconds left in the game to set up a field goal to send the teams into overtime. The Cougars managed to win in the second overtime.
Here are three lessons from BYU’s overtime win against Tennessee:
BYU has a placekicker
Over the years the Cougars have struggled to find a placekicker they can trust. It feels like it’s been a long time since fans could have faith in their kicker from even 25 yards out. It hasn’t all been bad, but field goals have not been a source of pride with the Cougars for some time.
That may be different now with Jake Oldroyd on the roster. Oldroyd scored 11 of BYU’s 29 points Saturday night with three field goals and two extra points. He was 3-for-3 on field goals — from 31 yards, 42 yards and a last-second one to send the game to overtime from 33 yards.
Cougar fans were no doubt sweating bullets on that last one, but Oldroyd snuck it between the uprights and saved the game as time expired. Having a placekicker you can trust and who is hitting shots from 40-plus yards is a long-awaited and much-needed addition to the BYU team.
Defense is definition of bend, don’t break
Bronco Mendenhall often mentioned that his defenses were “bend, don’t break,” meaning his squad would give up yards but make sure they shut down opposing offenses before they got into the end zone or kicked a field goal. While that may have been Mendenhall’s mantra, it would seem Kalani Sitake and Ilaisa Tuiaki have figured out how to put that on the field.
The Cougar defense gave up 418 yards to the Volunteers, including 242 yards on the ground. It seemed Tennessee was moving the ball and racking up first down after first down, but by the time the clock hit zeros, BYU had only given up 16 points. Soon you realized they were keeping the Vols out of the end zone.
It could be frustrating at times to watch the defense give up a first down on a third and long or give up big run plays two or three times in a row, but when it really counted and Tennessee made it into or near the red zone the Cougars buckled down, made stops and kept points off the board.
The Cougars let the Vols get to their own 19-yard line and stop them on a fourth and one. They allowed them to get to their 22-yard line and then pushed Tennessee back for a 51-yard field goal. Tennessee also got all the way to the BYU five, only to be denied the end zone once again and settle for a field goal.
The defense still has some growing up to do and shouldn’t let teams gain so much yardage and get into field goal range so often, but the 2019 Cougars know how to keep opposing offenses out of the end zone and have become the definition of bend, don’t break.
The offensive identity is Ty’Son Williams
Ty’Son Williams is the real deal and is the identity of this Cougar offense. Zach Wilson may be the QB, but Williams is the x-factor.
The transfer only got the ball seven times against Utah, but he averaged 7 yards a carry against one of college football’s best defenses. This week, offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes made sure Williams got carries and it changed the complexion of the offense.
Williams carried the ball 17 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown and one of the hardest runs I’ve ever seen. With some help from his teammates, Williams drive his legs and carried what seemed to be the entire Tennessee defense for about 3 yards to get into the end zone to end the game.
Williams has speed, strength and a great eye and will be a headache for opposing defenses. His ball carrying skills and big play ability forces defenses to keep an eye on him and play it safe opening up possibilities for the pass game, which will be crucial against a much improved and solid-looking USC next week.
The Trojans took down 23rd ranked Stanford on Saturday 45-20. The Trojan defense only gave up 98 yards on the ground and looked stingy in the run game all night. BYU has a tall order to take out USC in Provo next week, but if they’re going to pull off the upset they’re going to have get the ball on the ground and gain yards so they can open up the air attack and let the receivers go to work. That all begins with Williams.
Ty’Son only has one season with BYU, but it could be a special one as long as coaches make sure to design schemes around him and recognize his role as this offense’s identity.
BYU will take on the USC Trojans Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MDT in Provo at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. John also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome and it just so happens that these are the three things he writes about.