PROVO, Utah – Jamaal Williams became BYU's all-time career rusher as the Cougars beat Mississippi State 28-21 in two overtimes Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"Overall I'm really proud of the guys and how they played," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. "A lot of these games have been close, and that takes a toll, but I'm happy with the outcome. We got some things worked out and got the win."
Taysom Hill rolled right and found tight end Tanner Balderree who did most of the work after catch to give BYU a 28-21 lead after the Cougars' second overtime possession. BYU linebacker Fred Warner broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone on the Bulldogs' possession to seal BYU's win.
BYU improved to 4-3 while Mississippi State fell to 2-4 on the season.
Williams rushed for 76 yards in the game to increase his career rushing total to 3,468 yards, which broke Harvey Unga's career mark. Unga, whose last year was in 2009, had 3,455 career rushing yards as a Cougar.
Mississippi State got on the board first with a 44-yard touchdown pass from Nick Fitzgerald to Keith Mixon. Fitzgerald was pressured outside a dumped it off to the sideline where Mixon went down the line for the score. The subsequent PAT put the Bulldogs’ up 7-0 about six minutes into the game.
BYU responded by going on a 15-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown. On fourth and goal from the one yardline, Hill found Hunter Marshall in the back left corner of the end zone with 48 seconds left in the quarter to even things up at 7-7.
It was Marshall’s first touchdown as a Cougar and Hill’s seventh touchdown pass of the year.
Micah Hannemann’ first interception of the season and third of his career gave the ball back to BYU early in the second quarter. That eventually led to a 42-yard field goal attempt but Rhett Almond missed wide right.
Fitzgerald punched in a touchdown on the ground to cap off a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to put Mississippi State back on top, 14-7, with 3:54 left in the first half. The two teams took that score into halftime.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, although time ran out with the Cougars on the Bulldog eight yardline and third down coming up.
After penalties by both teams, BYU capitalized, as Hill threw a laser through two defenders for a touchdown to Moroni Laulu-Pututau, who made a diving catch between the defenders in the end zone. The PAT tied things up at 14-14 with 13:15 left to play.
Mississippi State’s next drive came to a halt when Kai Nacua picked off Fitzgerald and returned it 10 yards to the BYU 28. That marked five interceptions on the year for Nacua, and 13 on his career.
The ball exchanged hands a few times and both teams were unable to score as the game headed to overtime.
The Bulldogs started in overtime and scored a touchdown via a two-yard rushing touchdown. The Cougars trailed 21-14 as they took over on offense.
On BYU’s first play, Williams carried the ball for nine yards to break Unga’s record. Several plays later, Hill punched in a quarterback sneak for a touchdown. Andrew Mikkelsen made the PAT to send the game to a second overtime.
The Cougars needed just one play to score a touchdown in the second extra period with the connection between Hill and Balderee for the touchdown. It was Balderee's first career touchdown reception and capped off a night of 165 passing yards and three touchdown passes for Hill.
Keying off a sack by Sae Tautu and Logan Taele, the Cougars kept Mississippi State from scoring on their second overtime possession. The final play was an incomplete pass with Corbin Kaufusi hurrying Fitzgerald and Warner tipping it away in the end zone.
PROVO, Utah – Coming off a road win at Michigan State, BYU football will play against Mississippi State in the Homecoming game on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will kickoff at 8:15 p.m. MDT on ESPN.
Live coverage will be on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can also be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. MDT.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage of the matchup, starting with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 7 p.m. MDT. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game on BYUtv.
BYU (3-3) vs. Mississippi State (2-3)
Friday, Oct. 14, 2016
Kickoff: 8:21 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)
HOMECOMING WEEK. It’s Homecoming week at BYU. The week is packed full of festivities on campus, including Friday night’s game against the Bulldogs. The Cougars will be wearing their royal blue uniforms for Homecoming. For more about all the activities during the week, visit Homecoming.byu.edu
SERIES HISTORY. BYU and Mississippi State are meeting for the third time in the history of the two programs. The teams have split a previous home-and-home series, with the road team winning each contest. BYU defeated the Bulldogs 41-38 in the last matchup in 2001 on a game-winning field goal from Matt Payne. Current Cougar running backs coach Reno Mahe had 10 receptions, 189 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
SEC. BYU is facing an opponent from the SEC, marking the fifth different conference BYU has faced in 2016. The team has already played games against the Pac-12, Big 12, MAC and Big Ten. With the game against the Bulldogs, the Cougars will have faced at least one team from four of the five Power 5 conferences. BYU has played 10 games against current SEC opponents and is 5-5 in those games. Last year, BYU fell to Missouri 20-16 in Kansas City.
MULLEN VS. BYU. Mullen has never faced BYU as a head coach but was the quarterbacks coach at Utah in 2003 and 2004. BYU fell in both games to the Utes when Mullen was on staff. Mullen’s current quarterbacks coach is Brian Johnson, who was a backup QB at Utah in 2004 under Mullen, and went on to start for Utah from ‘05-08.
SAGARIN RANKINGS. USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin ranks BYU’s 2016 schedule the 9th toughest to date. The eight teams ahead of BYU and their respective records are (1) Stanford 3-2, (2) Florida State 4-2, (3) Rutgers 2-4, (4) Oklahoma 4-2, (5) USC 3-3, (6) Tennessee 5-1, (7) Ole Miss 3-2 and (8) Oregon 2-4.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
On the Michigan State game
I was really pleased with the complete game. If you asked Ty (Detmer) he was a little disappointed we didn’t start off faster, but you have to give Michigan State a lot of credit. They stopped us in the red zone area close to the goal line on fourth down and we had to find ways to pop through that and get a score. For the most part, the guys have been consistent in their desire to win and desire to compete, so I was pleased with that and I know I can always count on that. For the complete game, I thought the guys played with effort. Putting it together and having it all click was really important and obviously you saw the results of that Saturday.
On playing better when the team has fun and is relaxed
They all got into the game because it was fun at one time. Whenever it becomes a job, it becomes a little bit harder to deal with. The more we can remind these guys to have fun with what they do they easier it’ll be. Regardless of our wins or losses, we’re obviously going to celebrate our wins but there are a lot of good things to celebrate in a loss as well. We can make progress and find things that you can build off of. Having a positive outlook on everything is the most important thing and realizing the opportunity they have to compete. They’re in a great spot and I think it’s important for them to represent their families well as they’re out on the field. I thought they did that last week. They’ve been doing that all year long. I’m proud of the way they handle themselves as football players but more importantly as people.
Impact of having a comfortable win has on the team moving forward
We weren’t comfortable until the fourth quarter at four minutes left, so it’d be nice to be comfortable earlier than that. I hate to be picky, but I’m going to do that and keep demanding our guys to do it just to help my heart out. We’ll take it any way we can. I reminded defense on the last drive to end it the right way and finish the game strong and don’t worry about the score. I think they forced them out on downs so I’m really proud of the way the guys played and their mindset. I think they’re beginning to understand what we want them to do on defense and on offense. I was really pleased with the offensive and defensive lines.
What to expect from Mississippi State
Oh they’re a great team. First of all, Dan Mullen is a great coach and I have a great connection with Brian Johnson who is a good friend of mine. The game will be the game, but he’ll always be a good friend of mine. They have a great coaching staff and they understand football and they run into a little bit of adversity, which makes them dangerous, and they’re a quality team. They’re coming here to Provo and I’m honored to have them at LaVell Edwards Stadium. We’ll welcome them here and we’ll compete and see what happens. We’re expecting their best shot.
What he’s learning about the team over the first half of the season
They are a resilient bunch and they never quit. When you have that, you’ll have some success. We’ve faced a lot of great teams and another one this week. Nothing has changed we’ll go into the schedule and we’ll be tough. Obviously we lost some close ones but we’ll build off that and have it work in a positive way to help us win this week.
More to life than football motto
It’s a little different. It’s been in my life for so long. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without BYU and being a BYU fan, player, former student and now coach. I know some of the things we represent as a school and program. I had a chance to be around LaVell Edwards and to see the things he did outside of football. I think we have some opportunities to serve others, and that’s great position for us to be in and we’re going to take advantage of that. It’s different for a coach to say there’s more to life than football because my job and livelihood depends on it. I really believe if you’re grounded in other things besides football you’ll be successful and you can build success off the field and in the classroom and your social lives and that will carry over to the football field.
Senior QB Taysom Hill
Feeling after a big win
Obviously it was a really big win for us and our program. But we’re not hanging our hats on it. We had prepared to go in and get a win against a really good opponent on the road and that’s what we did. Now we’re moving on to Mississippi State.
On being in sync with the receivers
It’s a growth thing. I think collectively as a group - the receivers, myself, running backs - we’ve been a lot better at recognizing what the defense is doing. If it’s a zone defense, we’ll run zone routes. If it’s man defense, we’ll run man routes. Our receivers have done a really nice job as of late winning the one-on-one battles and giving me opportunities to throw to them.
On the offensive yards
Anytime you can turn and hand the ball off to those guys and rush for 200-plus yards, it’s a good day. It makes it easier on me as a quarterback; it makes it easier on Ty (Detmer) as a play-caller. It’s demoralizing to a defense when you can hand the ball off and get five or six yards of carry, so that was huge for us and we’ll continue to do that. I’m not surprised that we rushed for over 200 yards. We knew it was going to be a challenge, but I’ve been with these guys for a long time and I knew that they were up for it. They continue to work and work to get to where they are. They had a great outing.
On the strength of the team
Going through the new strength coach’s program put meat on everybody. We spent a lot more time in the weight room than we have in years in the past. That strength should be credited to the strength coaches and the program they’ve put together. We’re starting to reap the benefits of the off-season workouts.
Flowers during the coin toss and respect for other teams
We all realize that this is just a game and there is more to life than just football. Doing that was trying to show a deep loss for the Michigan State program. We wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. It’s just a football game, but if we can use football as a means to show recognition to a program like that, we’re going to do that. What you’ve seen of helping people up is BYU football. It’s a high-character program and we have great kids on this team. We’ll continue to work hard and help people up when they’re down.
Junior OL Tuni Kanuch
What the O-line was able to do against Michigan State
We stuck to our plan, we wanted to run the ball. They’re a good defense, a good D-line, but we have confidence in ourselves. We try to do what we said we were going to do in the summer and run the rock, be aggressive, be tough and get after people.
Watching the film
It was probably one of the most fun games of the whole year against a good opponent and being able to do what we want to do. It was good. We were able to complement each other and see each other’s strengths. We’re a bunch of funny guys ready to have fun. It was a fun game, so watching it, we’re able to laugh and bond. We can see that from our team this year. I think everyone sees that we’re close-knit, we’re family and it’s real. We don’t just talk about it, but that’s how we are.
Dancing in the locker room with the coaches
It was amazing. Coach Kalani is the man. I look up to him a lot. He is a father figure to me. I think a lot of players see him as a leader and we know that he loves us. To be able to celebrate with him means that much more to us because it shows that it’s a team win. It was fun. We’re all about having fun and getting the job done. We play better when we have fun. That’s what the game was for us.
Biggest factor in the O-line getting better each game
I think it’s chemistry. Throughout fall camp, we were shifting and moving everybody. You have to get used to each person. But the more that we’re able to take plays and the more we’re able to be with each other off the field, we can know what each other is doing on the field. When we’re kicking out on a pass block, I know (Thomas) Shoaf is going to try to drive his man wider so I can stay more on the nose. I can kind of feel what he’s doing and what Tejan (Koroma) is doing—that he’s going to come and be there. The trust is better, so I think that builds and gets it going.
Senior DL Sae Tautu
Not playing first half
It was painful. I saw my friends and teammates, my brothers out there working hard and giving it their all. Michigan State was a good team, they had a good first half, and so to not be out there was pretty hard. But I came on in the second half ready to go because of that.
Starting the second half strong
It was awesome. I think a lot of our players have had things go their way before and that’s how it was on Saturday. They kept bringing the ball to my side and we had a lot of fun.
How Harvey Langi playing middle LB again affected the defense
Harvey’s a really good football player. Having him on the field anywhere is great because you know he’s going to hustle and make plays. But having him behind me as a D-end, I know if I get my gap, I’m positive that he’ll cause disruption whether he’s hitting another lineman into the running back or actually making the tackle. It gives me confidence to do my job and focus 100 percent on my job when I don’t have to worry about gaps anywhere else. It’s fun having Harvey there because you can count on him to make plays.
Job of interior linemen
Last week when we played Toledo, they were a really good team and I think people don’t respect their offense as much as they should. We had to evaluate ourselves as a D-line and see what we needed to work on. So the whole week, our interior guys were working on their hands and fundamentals. And I think it really paid off. It shows we can improve throughout the season. It’s not like you prepare all offseason and go play—improvement can be made every week. I credit those guys because they worked hard last week and they came out and it showed. They worked those fundamentals. Their hands were a lot better and their feet were better, they were explosive.