Current Green Bay Packer running back and BYU great Jamaal Williams returned to a place he calls “home” Saturday afternoon. But the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher wasn’t carrying a football this time. Instead, he was carrying one of the alumni flags onto the field before BYU’s 42-10 victory over Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
Williams talked about his love for BYU and his appreciation for those that helped him along his journey as a Cougar.
“I love being back,” Williams said of his homecoming to Provo. “Being back home and just seeing everybody, and seeing everybody I met on my journey here and seeing how many people came out, you know, to see me and see the team win, it’s just great.”
Williams received a loud ovation multiple times at the game Saturday afternoon. The beloved former Cougar running back still has a soft spot for the University where he played football, amassing 3,901 yards over four memorable years.
“I’m just grateful for it, I’m grateful people still remember me around here, and enjoy my presence.” The Cougar-turned-pro hasn’t forgotten his roots saying that “I always rep the Y. The Y is what I got.”
When asked how closely he follows the Cougars, Williams explained, “mostly I just try to watch as many games as I can when I’m on the road or at home, I just try to watch as much as I can to see what’s happening,” Williams said. “I talked to a couple of them on the team, just let them know I’m always watching, I want them to do their best, let them know I’m always their brother, if they need anything they can always hit me.”
The former Cougar running back learned many things at BYU that have helped him become who he is today. Williams shared insight into his time at BYU stating that his experiences at BYU helped “to make the person I am today so I’m grateful for it.”
The young man that enrolled at BYU as a 17 year-old is now excelling in his role with the Packers. Williams is happy, in his own words saying, “I’m enjoying football, still playing the game I love to play and then I get to come back here and still be loved by all the fans, and the friends, and family, and people I met here.”
Seeing yellow flags, everywhere
The Cougars struggled to play a clean game, negating positive yards with penalties throughout the game.
BYU tallied 12 penalties for 85 yards, bringing back some of the Cougars biggest plays.
One of the costliest penalties came in the first quarter when BYU was assessed a holding call that canceled out senior wide receiver Micah Simon’s incredible one-handed 42-yard reception down the sideline. Another big play was negated when backup quarterback Joe Critchlow found Keanu Hill for 32-yards to the Idaho State 5-yard line. The play was called back for an ineligible man downfield.
Stepping up, one last time at home
The Cougar’s seniors played well in their final home game of the year. Senior defensive back Austin Lee got the scoring underway with an interception that he took a tipped pass 26-yards for a touchdown.
“I thank Chris Wilcox on that play,” Lee said. “Chris was really the one who made that play happen. I was just able to get my hands on the ball. The ball just floated into my hands, and I got some key blocks to get into the endzone.”
Dayan Ghanwoloku added to the Cougars positive turnover margin, picking off Idaho State quarterback Matt Struck in the third quarter. Micah Simon was another bright spot for the seniors, tying his career high in receptions with seven for the second straight week.
Aloha means the Cougars are bowling
With the victory on Saturday, BYU is now bowl eligible for the 14th time in 15 seasons.
Following the game, BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe accepted an invitation to the SoFi Hawaii Bowl, which will be played at 6 p.m. MT on Dec. 24.
“We are excited to be playing in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl,” Holmoe said. “I’m really happy for our football team and impressed with how hard they worked to have this opportunity.”
BYU lost the coin toss, so the Cougars are now 6-6 on coin tosses this year, including overtime coin tosses. Idaho State deferred, giving the Cougars the ball first to start the game. BYU struggled to move the ball, punting on its first possession. ... BYU captains for Saturday’s game were Micah Simon (Sr. WR), Aleva Hifo (Sr. WR), Dayan Ghanwoloku (Sr. DB) and Austin Lee (Sr. DB) ... Carrying the BYU alumni flags for the game were Jamaal Williams (RB, 2012-14, 16) and Brian McKenzie (RB, 1996-97). The U.S. flag was carried out by senior linebacker Austin Kafentzis accompanied by senior defensive linemen JJ Nwigwe carrying the team flag and senior wide receiver Batchlor Johnson IV carrying the ROC flag, while senior tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau carried the 150 years of college football flag and senior wide receiver Talon Shumway carried the flag of the state of Utah ... the announced attendance at the game was 57,379.