Zach Wilson gets hoisted in the air while the offense runs off the field after Wilson’s rushing touchdown gave BYU a fourth-quarter lead. (Hannah Miner)

BYU football took down USC 30-27 in an overtime thriller Saturday, September 14 — its second overtime victory in two weeks.

It took USC just 4:21 on its first drive of the game to march 74 yards down the field for a touchdown. A missed tackle on a crucial third-and-five gave USC a fresh set of downs before freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis fired an eight-yard pass into the end zone to Matthew Pittman giving the Trojans a 7-0 lead. 

The BYU offense took the filed only momentarily before the Trojans regained posession. But the Trojans following drive started with a Khyris Tonga sack for a loss of six yards before BYU linebacker Payton Wilgar picked off Slovis at the USC 28-yard line. This marked just the second time that Slovis has been picked off in his young NCAA career.

The BYU coaching staff elected to let Williams carry the team over the next few plays. On the first play of the drive, Williams ran 26 yards to the USC two-yard line, giving BYU a first-and-goal from the three-yard line. On second and one, Williams appeared to break the plane of the end zone, but review showed his knee hitting the turf at the half-yard line. BYU pulled defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku off the bench and he converted on third-and-goal, topping off an impressive BYU drive. Jake Oldroyd converted on the extra point, tying the game at 7 with 6:10 remaining in the first quarter.

The ensuing USC drive was quickly cut short when Slovis thew another interception, snagged by Isaiah Kaufusi, the second interception of the game and third of his career. On a trick play, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson caught a pass from Jaren Hall to advance 19 yards down the field. But the Cougars were forced to settle for a 23-yard Jake Oldroyd field goal, giving the team a three-point lead.

USC came out hot with a 62-yard pass from Slovis to Erik Krommenhoek, which put the Trojans in position to score. But the Cougar defense held firm and pushed USC back, forcing them to settle for a field goal, once again tying the game.

BYU took possession of the ball, and Wilson led the team down the field through a series of passes to Aleva Hifo, Williams, Moroni Laulu-Putuau and Micah Simon. The drive ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Dax Milne, bringing the score to 17-10.

Bracken El-Backri takes his three-stance while awaiting for the ball to be snapped during the BYU vs. USC game on Sept. 14. (Hannah Miner(

On the kick return, Carr took the ball 19 yards to the 24-yard line, starting an 11-play, 76-yard drive to the Cougar’s end zone. With 5:03 left in the half, the game was tied once again and the Cougars and Trojans seemed to be evenly matched.

The Cougar’s following drive was almost cut short by an interception by Brandon Pili, but an official review determined the ball had hit the ground, and BYU continued its march. A 25-yard pass to Talon Shumway put the Cougars in the red zone, but the drive stalled and Oldroyd went in for a 44-yard field goal attempt. The kick was no good, spoiling Oldroyd’s perfect season, and the ball returned to the Trojans as time expired in the first half.

BYU started the second half with the ball, but after Jaren Hall was sacked for a loss of one yard and a fumble by Wilson was recovered by BYU’s James Empey, Oldroyd was sent onto the field again, this time for another punt.

The ball changed hands several more times throughout the third quarter with no points to show for either team. In a risky move, BYU attempted a fourth-and-one redzone play only to fall inches short of the first-down marker, turning the ball over once again. The teams took turns pushing downfield, but by the quarter ended scoreless, the game tied at 17.

Going into the fourth and final frame, USC brought the ball down the field with a couple of long passes from Slovis to Michael Pittman. The drive concluded with a 30-yard pass to Pittman, who caught the ball while being forced out of the endzone by Kavika Fonua. Upon review, the play was determined to be a touchdown for the Trojans, and they took a 24-17 with 10:45 left in the game.

A six-yard run from Williams was followed by a 17-yard pass to Hifo and an outstanding 30-yard pass to Micah Simon, driving the Cougars into the red zone. But fourth down brought the Cougars’ field-goal unit back onto the field for a 32-yard field goal from Oldroyd, bringing the BYU within 4 points, down 24-17.

Aleva Hifo tosses the ball to the referee after a big gain against USC. (Hannah Miner)

The USC offense struggled to get anything going after returning to the field with an unnecessary roughness call, a holding call and an incomplete pass resulting in a punt that put BYU back in possession with 6:38 left in the game.

When the BYU offense retook the field, Wilson scrambled to evade defenders and shot the ball downfield into the hands of Gunner Romney for a 35-yard completion that put the Cougars on the 17-yard line. The Cougars gained one yard on their next play, and then Wilson ran the ball right down the middle and broke into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown.

The three-play, 57-second drive gave the Cougars a 27-24 and USC received the ball with 5:41 to go.

After pushing down the field as far as they could, the Trojans risked a long field goal attempt, which proved good from 52 yards out. BYU would have one last chance to win the game in regulation with 1:43 to play, the score tied at 27.

As the clock ticked down, BYU failed to score and USC elected to let the game play out in overtime. This was the second overtime BYU has faced in two weeks as they had defeated Tennessee in double overtime just one week earlier.

BYU began overtime on offense, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to run the ball, the Cougars settled for a 43-yard field goal from Oldroyd.

With USC taking the field and looking to at least match the field goal to send the game into a second overtime, the Trojans faced a crucial third-and-six. The ball was snapped to Slovis who dropped back and fired the ball downfield. An outstretched Fonua tipped the ball towards a diving Ghanwoloku, who corralled the ball before hitting the turf, sealing the overtime victory with an interception.

BYU fans excitedly stormed the field without waiting for the play to be reviewed. Following review, the interception was declared good and the crowd again erupted. As the fans celebrated, the players found themselves caught up in a frenzy of excitement.

“I was actually getting just destroyed by the fans. I was taking some harder hits in there than I was in the game,” Wilson said.

The excitement of it all was not lost on the players or their coaches. Head coach Kalani Sitake expressed his appreciation for the team and how they worked together to pull off the win.

“We had pretty much the whole team involved in every play. … That’s the culture of the team and the leadership and the awesome dynamic that we have,” Sitake said.

BYU fans hurdle the barriers and storm the field following BYU’s upset victory over No. 24 USC. (Hannah Miner)

As BYU came up against USC the statistics did not speak much in their favor. The undefeated Trojans had just come out of a win against previously ranked No. 24 Stanford, and before that had won their season opener against Fresno State. BYU had only played USC twice before, once in 2003 and once in 2004, and had lost both games.

Tyson Williams attributed this win and the last one against Tennessee to the team’s willpower and refusal to retreat.

“No matter the score, no matter the time that’s left on the clock, this team just keeps fighting and keeps fighting,” Williams said.

Wilson finished the game 20 of 33 for 280 yards and one touchdown. Williams continued to impress as he finished with 99 yards, averaging almost five yards per carry.

Simon, Hifo and Romney all had three catches, but Romney lead all receivers with 54 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Fonua lead all defensive players with 13 total tackles, while Ghanwoloku and Max Tooley added nine of their own. Iasiah Kaufusi, Ghanwoloku and Wilgar tallied one interception each.

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