True freshman Jake Oldroyd connected on a 33-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to propel the BYU football team to a 18-16 win over Arizona in the Cactus Kickoff Classic.
It was a thrilling victory that marked the first career win for Kalani Sitake, but was also important for a number of other reasons. The defense he helped create forced two turnovers and collected four sacks. His clock management skills were on display and his coaching staff decisions were validated.
After the game, all eyes were on the NCAA’s first Tongan head coach and his accomplishments.
But Sitake was quick to dismiss the attention. Before even acknowledging the victory, he thanked Arizona and the Cactus Classic for inviting the Cougars.
He was later asked if the win felt special. He wasted no time shifting the adoration to his players.
“Well, yeah, but this isn’t about me,” Sitake said. “These guys deserve it. I wish you would ask them more of the questions. I’ve been really impressed with the leadership on the team, but that just shows the type of character we have on this team.”
On a night when BYU welcomed back Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams from extended absences, it’s hard to imagine anyone would blame the two for reveling in the moment.
But just like their head coach, Hill and Williams took a different approach.
Hill amassed 239 yards and a touchdown. He completed 21 of 29 passes and finished with a 142.3 quarterback rating.
At the post-game press conference, Hill focused on Williams.
“Jamaal’s the MVP for sure,” Hill said. “He carried us basically the entire game. He was a beast the entire game. When we needed a big play, Jamaal stepped up.”
Williams carried the ball 29 times – the most in a single game for him since 2013 – for 162 yards. He also caught one pass for 10 yards. He passed Jeff Blanc on the Cougars’ career rushing yards list and now sits at the No. 5 spot. Williams needs just 768 more yards to become BYU’s all-time leading rusher.
But Williams didn’t seem to care. Instead he was focused on the offense as a whole.
“I was proud of how the offense came out,” Williams said. “We stayed cool and collected and we did everything we needed to do to win. Coming from practice, we (work two-minute drills) all the time and putting that in a game just shows that hard work in practice works. I’m just really proud of my teammates and how they worked.”
It was the Cougars’ first win against a Power Five opponent since the “Miracle at Memorial” win over Nebraska on Sept. 5, 2015. After defeating Nebraska the team went 0-4 against Power Five opponents, dropping games to UCLA, Michigan, Missouri and Utah.
BYU will aim to build on the big win by attempting to knock off rival Utah in Salt Lake on Sept. 10. Sitake spent nearly 10 seasons at Utah, coaching there from 2005-2014 in a number of different roles.
The Utes are 1-0 on the season after defeating Southern Utah 24-0. The game kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 and can be viewed on Fox.