If you are a BYU football fan, you likely recall the big plays made in Saturday’s 30-27 Cougar overtime win over No. 24 USC at LaVell Edwards Stadium, plays made by quarterback Zach Wilson, safety Dayan Ghanwoloku, linebacker Kavika Fonua and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga.
But what about BYU sophomore linebacker Chaz Ah You and freshman holder Hayden Livingston?
The reality is that none of the other big plays might have been enough to give the Cougars the victory without the key contributions of those two players in the overtime period.
The first big play came after the Cougar offense had failed to move the ball when it had the ball in the extra frame.
That meant BYU sophomore kicker Jake Oldroyd faced a difficult 43-yard field goal to get the home team any points at all – and he had missed from 44 yards out earlier in the game.
“I just said let’s go get this one,” Livingston said. “Misses are going to happen sometimes but Jake is a really good kicker. I would put money on him not missing another one all year.”
The Cougar field goal unit lined up but when the snap from senior Mitch Harris came back low, Livingston was put in a tough spot.
“That’s something Mitch, myself and Jake repped all summer,” Livingston said. “Mitch is a really, really good long snapper and normally they don’t come in like that. When they do, you’ve got to be prepared for it. When situations like that come – even though it was on a big stage in front of a lot of people – I just try to focus in on the ball, tune everything else out and make sure I get it up for Jake.”
His training took over and the result was that Oldroyd knocked the ball through the uprights, scoring what turned out to be the game-winning points.
“Every play in overtime situations and leading up to overtime, those plays become huge,” Lamb said. “Hayden made a clutch, clutch play by picking that ball off the ground and getting it set. It’s not easy for the kicker to remain calm in that situation and trust the holder, but I’m proud of the way those two guys are working together.”
Livingston didn’t think he did anything incredibly noteworthy, even if it did allow Oldroyd to make the kick.
“I think the fun of football is making sure you do your job,” Livingston said. “Whether that is getting interceptions or running down on kickoff and taking on blocks. Part of my job for this season is being the holder, so I just do my job. Credit Mitch for getting it back there, the line for blocking and Jake for getting it up there. It takes everybody.”
That set the stage for Ah You to make his contribution as the BYU defense took the field, needing to hold the Trojan offense out of the end zone to avoid a loss.
On the first play, Ah You surged into the backfield and dropped the USC running back for a 1-yard loss – but then left the field holding his arm.
“I had some stuff happen with my shoulder, injuries that I’ll work through,” Ah You said. “I won’t lie. It hurt pretty bad.”
The Cougar sophomore linebacker explained that he felt like he had missed a golden opportunity to seal the win in regulation and so had extra motivation to deal with the pain and get back onto the field.
“Once the adrenaline kicked in and I was tested by the trainers, there was no way I was letting myself stay out for that last play,” Ah You said. “I had a chance to end the game by getting an interception before they kicked their field goal to tie the game but I dropped it. That really drove me to get on the field for the last play because I knew I had to make up for it.”
He came back in for the crucial third-and-6 play, where he saw a trend in the Trojan route-running.
“We were playing man defense on that last possession and I had caught the tendency of the receiver,” Ah You said. “When he came underneath the Mike backer, he was running a stop route in the middle. I played with more confidence and shot it. I trusted my instincts.”
Both Ah You and junior linebacker Kavika Fonua broke on the ball, with Fonua hitting it off Ah You’s helmet. That impact sent the ball tumbling back toward the middle of the field where Ghanwoloku was able to make the diving interception and seal the win.
“I don’t care to get any credit on that,” Ah You said. “Dayan caught the pick and the game was over. That was an awesome experience for me to be a part of it.”
BYU linebackers coach/special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said Ah You has been playing really well for the Cougars.
“He plays really physical and has great instincts for the game,” Lamb said. “He’s also becoming more of a student of the game and realizing what his potential is. He is playing hard and sets the tone, but he is also starting to play a really smart game of football.”
Both Ah You and Livingston said they are just savoring be part of these big BYU wins in the last couple of weeks.
“These last two weeks have been really fun,” Livingston said. “Going to Tennessee with that atmosphere and then coming home for another overtime win, it’s been a blast.”