KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s defense that had been so stout throughout most of Saturday night picked the worst moment to cave.
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The Vols led BYU by three points in the closing seconds when Cougars quarterback Zach Wilson found Micah Simon for a 64-yard gain to set up a game-tying field goal that forced overtime.
BYU scored touchdowns on both of its overtime possessions, winning on Ty’Son Williams’ 5-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars pulled off a stunning 29-26 victory in front of an announced crowd of 92,475 at Neyland Stadium. BYU (1-1) never led until overtime.
The Vols dropped to 0-2 to start a season for the first time since 1988.
“I just got in there and just got dirty, just kept my feet moving and was able to get to the goal line and score a touchdown,” Williams said.
Big play dooms Vols
BYU mustered only one play that went for at least 20 yards until its final possession. The Cougars faced a third-and-6 from their own 20-yard line with 17 seconds remaining when Simon slipped behind cornerback Alontae Taylor.
Taylor caught up with Simon to prevent him from scoring a game-winning touchdown, but not before he’d positioned Jacob Oldroyd for a 33-yard field goal to force overtime.
“I was on the same side as (Matt) Bushman, who is a really great tight end, so a lot of eyes and a lot of guys were looking at him,” Simon said. “I think they just kind of had a mis-lapse in coverage and I got behind the guys and Zach made a great pass.”.
Tennessee defense steady – until the end
Curiously, BYU didn’t commit to establishing the run until the second half, even though Georgia State upset Tennessee thanks in large part to its ability to move the ball on the ground.
BYU finished with 107 rushing yards on 30 carries.
Tennessee’s defense mostly cleaned up the missed assignments and mental errors that hampered it against Georgia State. The Vols also did a better job pressuring the quarterback, sacking Wilson four times.
Tennessee had a 418-339 advantage in total offense.
Curious decision on key play
Tennessee’s offensive line and running backs were imposing their will on BYU during a fourth quarter drive when Tennessee faced a fourth-and-1 at the BYU 30-yard line while leading 16-13.
Rather than hand the ball off to a running back, the Vols called for an end-around run to wide receiver Josh Palmer. He was stopped for no gain, ending a drive that could have allowed the Vols to cement the victory.
Contributing: Associated Press.