Just over a minute to play, 85 yards from the end zone, down three points in a loud and frantic Neyland Stadium against Tennessee.
For the best of BYU quarterbacks, it would be a daunting proposition.
For sophomore Zach Wilson, all it took was keeping his eyes up field and seeing Micah Simon running free.
Wilson let it loose, Simon gathered it in and raced down the field. The 64-yard pass set up the game-tying field goal and the Cougars went on to beat Tennessee 29-26 on Saturday, making a miracle out of what was looking more and more like an 0-2 start to 2019.
It probably didn’t hurt that the ESPN camera’s caught Wilson’s mother, Lisa, with her eyes closed and apparently in silent prayer during that last drive. I’m sure she wasn’t alone as many in Cougar Nation joined her.
Please, please, just a little break right here would be appreciated.
Whoever came out of this weekend with a loss was going to have that 0-2 collar around their neck with postseason hopes fading fast. That’s now Tennessee, who has to run the gauntlet of an SEC scheduling in a couple of weeks. BYU escapes going 0-2 for the first time since 1995.
For Cougar fans, 1-1 never looked better.
This was a win desperately needed by Kalani Sitake and his coaching staff, and it didn’t look like a win for much of the game. An offense that kept making critical mistakes and settling for field goals, and a defense that was giving up big rushing yards wasn’t exactly a recipe for victory.
Wilson to Simon changed all of that and the Cougars made the right plays in the overtimes to earn a really, really big victory.
Through the transitive property of college football, if BYU lost to Tennessee, then the Cougars would not be as good a team as Georgia State, which beat the Volunteers last week. Whew, glad to get that out of the way.
So how did BYU do it? A commitment to the run in the second half, for one. The Cougars had minus-4 yards rushing at halftime, mostly due to sacks. Ty’Son Williams finished with 92 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. He also finished with a backup jersey with no name on the back, since his original jersey was ripped in the first half.
Now, everybody should know his name. He ran hard and has the speed to make plays. BYU fans thought he should have run more last week and got their wish against the Vols.
Sophomore kicker Jake Oldroyd was terrific again, making the game-tying field goal by the width of one of those flags on top of the goalposts. Even the Tennessee fans in the end zone thought he missed it, but it was good by the slimmest of margins.
That’s how you win games, by making those key plays the right time however you can do it.
The defense gave up a lot of rushing yards but made some big third and fourth down stops to keep Tennessee out of the end zone in regulation but for a tipped pass in the first half. I know there are complaints about Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defensive philosophy but in the end, points are all that matters and Tennessee only scored 16 in regulation.
What BYU really needs is for the offense to do its part. The Cougars came through with two touchdown drives in the overtimes and that should give them confidence going forward.
A win is breath of fresh air after last week’s foul loss to Utah. What anyone who is struggling needs is a little bit of success to see there are better times ahead.
The Cougars got it in a big way on Saturday.