Williams breaks rushing record in double-overtime win

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Jamaal Williams carries the ball against Mississippi State. Williams became BYU's all-time leading rusher on Friday night. (Ari Davis)
Jamaal Williams carries the ball against Mississippi State. Williams became BYU’s all-time leading rusher on Friday night. (Ari Davis)

 

The BYU football team picked up its third-straight win on Friday night, defeating Mississippi State 28-21 in double overtime.

“All these games have been close, and it’s taking its toll,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “But we’ll take the win.”

Mississippi State marched its way down the field to start off the first quarter, but Westin Graves missed a 42-yard field goal. The intensity of the defense and the booming homecoming crowd helped push the kick from Westin Graves wide left.

After a substitution infraction by the Cougars on a MSU punt, the Bulldogs got the ball back and made the most of their opportunity. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald threw to Keith Mixon on a run-pass option for a 44-yard touchdown. The successful PAT put Mississippi State up on BYU 7-0.

Taysom Hill followed up the MSU touchdown with a pair of first-down rushes. A strong run from Jamaal Williams and a completion to Nick Kurtz put the Cougars in great scoring position. A pass-interference flag followed by a fourth-down pass to tight end Hunter Marshall helped the Cougars find the end zone for their first touchdown of the night.

BYU football vs. Mississippi State in photos

The 15-play drive lasted more than eight minutes, finishing off the quarter tied at 7-7.

The Cougars picked up its eleventh interception of the season when Micah Hannemann made a leaping interception at the start of the second quarter. BYU made its way down the field, but couldn’t connect on a 42-yard field goal from Rhett Almond.

Fitzgerald capped off the next Bulldogs’ scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown run. MSU connected on the point after, taking a 14-7 lead.

BYU trailed yet again at the half by the score of 14-7. The Cougars have not led at halftime since the season opener against Arizona.

Following a third-quarter punting match off between Jonny Linehan and Logan Cooke, BYU finally got good field positioning and made its way to the Bulldog two-yard line before time expired.

Moroni Laulu-Pututau found the end zone on a diving catch from Taysom Hill at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It was Laulu-Pututau’s first receiving touchdown since the West Virginia matchup and his second of the season. The 48-yard drive ate five minutes off the clock and tied up the game at 14-14.

As MSU marched down the field midway through the final quarter, Kai Nacua picked up his fifth interception of the season.

A late turnover on downs for the Bulldogs gave BYU full control to win the game with 3:05 left in the game. But a missed throw to Colby Pearson forced the punt back to MSU.

BYU wide receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau reels in a pass from Taysom Hill. (Ari Davis)
BYU wide receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau reels in a pass from Taysom Hill. (Ari Davis)

As BYU had the ball back with 12 seconds on the clock, Laulu-Pututau made an incredible catch from Hill, but the quarterback fumbled the ball the next play as time expired and the Cougars entered their first overtime game of the season.

After the Mississippi State score from a leaping Fitzgerald, BYU came right back. Williams broke the all-time school rushing record with a nine-yard rush on the first BYU play of the overtime period.

“I’m just grateful,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m on Taysom level now.”

Hill fumbled the ball on the next play, but tight end Tanner Balderee recovered the ball and nearly got a first-down. Hill put the finishing touches on the first overtime by running the ball in for a touchdown.

“I just got bruises on bruises,” Hill said. “That’s the mentality of our team, that we’ll do whatever it takes.”

With the game tied at 21-21, Hill found a wide open Balderee for a touchdown on the first play of the second overtime. BYU took their first lead of the game when it counted the most. The score was 28-21 with a chance for MSU to win or tie.

“It would be nice if we could do that more often,” Sitake said.

Great coverage in the BYU secondary translated into an unsuccessful fourth-down attempt for the Bulldogs, which ended the game. Fans rushed the field following the double-overtime victory.

This was the first overtime game for BYU since its loss to Memphis in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl.

Williams rushed for 76 yards on the night, earning him the all-time BYU record for rushing yards with a total of 3,468 yards. Williams did not have a touchdown run on the night, however.

“All he cared about was the win, that’s what makes him special,” Sitake said. “They did a lot of things to pressure him upfront. He said he didn’t care about the record. He wanted to win and I’m glad we got the win as a team.”

The Cougars travel to Boise State on Thursday.

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