PROVO — The BYU Cougars hosted the Trojans of USC Saturday afternoon in Provo and put on another heart-stopping show. For the second straight week, the Cougars have gone the distance and beyond as they’ve battled it out in overtime with two storied Power Five teams.
BYU managed to steal the win Saturday in overtime as defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku picked off USC quarterback Kedon Slovis on a third down. While the end of the game was fun to watch and the Cougars came away with a win, there was still some sloppy play and missed opportunities to put the game away before the clock hit zeroes in regulation.
Here are three lessons from BYU’s overtime win against USC:
Zach Wilson is regaining his confidence
Through the first two games, quarterback Zach Wilson had some strong moments, particularly late in the Tennessee game. But he hasn’t seemed to regain that magic he started showing late last season. Wilson didn’t have the game of his life against USC and didn’t play brilliant the entire time, but the Wilson BYU fans have been hoping to see started making his way back.
Wilson made better decisions, honed in on his accuracy and made plays with both his arm and his legs. The touchdown pass to Dax Milne may have signified the moment Wilson broke out of his shell in 2019. It took a lot of confidence to throw that ball in the first place and even more precision to drop it right over the defender into waiting arms of his receiver.
Other impressive moments included his touchdown to take the lead in the fourth quarter, his elusive ability to avoid the sack and hit Gunner Romney for a long completion to set up the late touchdown.
Wilson started to look comfortable in his role as the quarterback and put his team in a position to win. If the trend continues, Wilson will continue to get better and smarter, make plays and give the Cougars a chance to win.
Leaving too many points and opportunities on the field
It’s never fun to come down on a team when they win a big game in such a dramatic way, but not everything was a positive for the Cougars Saturday. BYU had chances to end the game before it ever got to halftime, but poor execution, decision-making by coaches, and dropped balls forced the game to overtime.
USC did what they had to do to get the game to overtime and made some big-time plays to keep their chances alive. With that said, BYU left points on the board as they failed to convert a big interception into 7 points, Jake Oldroyd missed a field goal that would have given the Cougars just enough to win in regulation, and the coaching staff decided to go for it on fourth with the same player three times in a row instead of getting 3 points, which would have ended the game down the stretch.
These are all would-have, could-have moments that we assume would have changed the outcome of the game, but we can’t guarantee. That is not the case, however, when it comes to a dropped interception on USC’s second-to-last drive in regulation.
On the Trojans’ last drive in the fourth quarter, the defense tipped the ball on a Slovis pass, which then hit linebacker Chaz Ah You in the hands. Ah You couldn’t hold on to the errant pass and the ball dropped to the ground. USC then lined up for a 52-yard field goal, which Chase McGrath put right through the uprights to tie the game.
Now, it’s not fair to put all of this on Ah You. A ball bounced around like that in the middle of a game situation going fun speed is not so easy, even when it lands on your face mask. Ah You had a great game and this was just one missed opportunity, but the point is BYU had chances to win the game but couldn’t execute at certain times. Ghanwoloku had a similar dropped interception earlier in the game and USC funneled the ball twice, but BYU couldn’t come up with the recovery either time.
At the end of the day these missed opportunities didn’t come back to haunt the Cougars, but that won’t always be the situation. If BYU can clean up these mistakes they could have a bright season ahead of them.
Still don’t know how good this team is
This Cougar football team is resilient and never gives up, but I think we’re still waiting to find out just how good they are. They have talent and they have won two straight games in fun and dramatic fashion, but the overall quality of the team is still up in the air.
The last two games were some really solid wins, but Tennessee has proved to not be a great team this year, and while USC’s win over a ranked Stanford looked impressive at the time, but the Cardinal laid an egg against UCF Saturday.
You can’t take anything away from BYU for marching down into SEC country and beating the Vols in front of 100,000 fans in the south — that’s always a tall order. And USC is a traditional powerhouse, and a win over the Trojans is always a plus on any resume. But both these teams may be having more of a down year and the one really solid team BYU has played this year, Utah, had their way with them.
It’s fair for Cougar fans to be optimistic, and they have a lot to be excited about, but it may be another week or so and a couple of games deeper before we find out just how good this Cougar team really is.
Up next for BYU is a home matchup with another Pac-12 school, Washington. The Huskies are 2-1 on the season and beat Hawai’i 52-20 on Saturday night in Seattle. The game will air on ESPN at 1:30 MDT 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.