GLENDALE, Ariz. — On the ultimate drive of the night, Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and the BYU offense did what they were supposed to do. Now it was up to Jake Oldroyd.
The 18-year old from famed Southlake (Tex.) Carroll High School, a true freshman who had never even attempted a collegiate kick of any kind, drilled a 33-yard field goal with four seconds left in the game to lift BYU to an 18-16 victory over the Arizona Wildcats at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the Cactus Kickoff.
“I was excited, but I had to wait until it went through before I could celebrate,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “It was a great game. I was really proud of Jake and it was a lot of fun.”
Oldroyd never missed a kick in two years for Carroll, but the stakes were much higher here — and the goalposts much narrower (college and NFL goal post uprights are nearly five feet closer together than in high school). Regardless, Oldroyd nailed the kick from the left hash mark right down the middle, making his first college football moment a memorable one.
Arizona had just taken its first lead moments earlier when Nick Wilson split the defense for a 49-yard TD run with 1:26 left in the game. But the Wildcats failed on a two-point conversion try, leaving Hill and his teammates with nearly 90 seconds and two timeouts to try to get into field goal position.
With new offensive coordinator Ty Detmer making the play calls, Hill put together a masterful drive. The senior signal-caller completed 3 of 4 passes, including a key 11-yarder to Jonah Trinnaman on third down, to move the Cougars into Arizona territory.
With time and still two timeouts, BYU ran the ball on four straight plays, moving it from the Wildcat 49-yard line down to the 11. But in a rush to get another play off, the Cougars committed a false start with eight seconds to go, which forced them to use their final timeout to avoid a mandatory 10-second run-off, which would have ended the game.
The mistake also moved the ball back to the 16-yard line. With no timeouts, Sitake was forced to try the kick from there. Rhett Almond, who was the starting placekicker for BYU, had barely made a 24-yard field goal and had also missed an extra point earlier in the game. So Sitake turned to the freshman from Texas.
“Our special teams coordinator, Assistant head coach, Ed Lamb, felt really comfortable with (Oldroyd),” Sitake said. “Especially after the (Almond missed) field goal earlier. Probably not a good time to do it, but Ed felt comfortable with Jake being in that position. We had practiced it quite a bit. I had to lean on him as the special teams coordinator to make that decision, and I was okay with it and it worked out.”
It was a throwback game for BYU, with former stars Sitake and Detmer on the sideline and Hill and Williams returning to the field after time off. Hill is back after missing nearly the entire 2015 campaign with a foot injury and Williams has been off for almost two seasons after an injury in 2014 and a leave of absence in 2015.
But Hill was pretty sharp in Detmer’s pro style offense, completing 21 of 29 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown.
However, it was Williams who stole the show. The senior running back rushed for 162 yards on 29 carries (5.6 ypc) and had several long runs called back on penalties. His last action was in 2014, when a knee injury cut short his season. He is the No. 3 all-time leading rusher at BYU for a career and has amassed more than 3,000 yards as a Cougar. Saturday’s 162-yard performance marks the 11th time in his career he has rushed for 100 yards in a game.
BYU’s defense was also sharp most of the night. The only scoring of the first half came on the BYU side, with Almond’s field goal early in the second quarter putting the Cougars up 3-0 and a short run by fullback Brayden El-Bakri making it 9-0 (with Almond’s missed PAT) with 2:53 to go in the first half.
Josh Pollack hit a 46-yard field goal for Arizona to make it 9-3 with 5:53 to go in the third. But BYU pushed the lead to the biggest of the night early in the fourth quarter when Hill hit Colby Pearson with a 6-yard TD strike that capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive for the Cougars and made it 15-3. BYU missed a two-point conversion try after that TD.
The Wildcats began their comeback on the ensuing possession by going 75 yards in just seven plays. Wilson capped the drive with a 15-yard jaunt, making it 15-10 with 9:33 left in the game.
After an exchange of possessions, Arizona finally got its first lead when Wilson took off on his 49-yarder to cap a four-play, 80-yard drive.
BYU then took over at its own 31-yard line after a decent kickoff return by Matt Hadley and Hill calmly led the Cougars down the field for Oldroyd’s winning kick.
The Cougars, 1-0, outgained Arizona 415-328 in total offense and BYU had the ball for more than 37 of the game’s 60 minutes. The Cougars had 213 rushing yards and 202 through the air.
BYU plays at Utah next Saturday (Sept. 10) with kickoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
The Wildcats, 0-1, host FCS foe Grambling State.
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