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Provo • Penalties that negated big gains. A missed PAT. A critical dropped pass on third and short in the third quarter. Sloppy tackling and blown defensive assignments in the second half, and the failure to defend aggressively the entire game after a first-half shutout.
All those BYU miscues and mistakes were easily forgotten, however, after true freshman walk-on Jake Oldroyd attempting his first college kick booted a 33-yard field goal with four seconds left to lift the Cougars to a wild-and-woolly 18-16 win over Arizona late Saturday night at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"We were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot," quarterback Taysom Hill acknowledged, lamenting how several drives sputtered due to penalties or that dropped pass, in one memorable instance.
Nobody mentioned that the Cougars will have to play better this Saturday in the rivalry affair at Rice-Eccles Stadium (5:30 p.m., Fox Sports) if they hope to snap Utah's five-game stranglehold over them. But that was pretty much understood.
Actually, nobody really talked about Utah much at all in the euphoria that followed the game-winning kick, although after his first win as a head coach, Kalani Sitake noted: "It's an honor to call Utah our rivals."
Yeah, there's a new sheriff in town, one who hasn't been afraid to express gratitude to his former employer and boss, Kyle Whittingham, and to call the rivalry what it is the biggest game on independent BYU's schedule.
The Cougars didn't focus on their mistakes, either, although that surely would have been the case if not for the late-game heroics by kick returner Matt Hadley, Hill, third-quarter pass-dropper Moroni Laulu-Pututau, Jonah Trinnaman, Jamaal Williams, and, of course, the baby-faced Oldroyd.
They committed eight penalties to Arizona's four and inexplicably left the middle of the field wide open on Nick Wilson's 49-yard touchdown run with a minute, 26 seconds left that gave the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
"What I saw was that we weren't assignment sound in the fourth quarter," said BYU middle linebacker Butch Pau'u, who led the team with nine tackles. "We kind of broke down defensively a little bit but we managed to come back in the end."
That included a huge stop when Arizona went for the two-point conversion after the go-ahead touchdown that would have given the Wildcats a three-point lead. The stop made Oldroyd's field goal a game-winner, rather than a game-tying boot.
"Things just went our way," said Sitake. "I'm super pleased with how the guys played. This isn't about me. It's about these guys. They worked extremely hard for this win."
Sitake was presented the game ball in the locker room, but he said it should have gone to the more than 30,000 BYU fans who took over University of Phoenix Stadium just two hours away from Arizona's campus. Hill said Williams playing for the first time since Nov. 1, 2014 "is the MVP, for sure."
Williams averaged 5.6 yards per carry, picking up 162 on 29 attempts for the 11th career 100-yard game. One 43-yard run was negated by an illegal shift penalty. Williams moved into fifth place on BYU's career rushing list with 2,688 yards, passing Jeff Blanc. He's now 768 yards away from the school record.
"He carried us basically the entire game," Hill said. "He was a beast the entire game. When we needed a big play, Jamaal stepped up."
So did Hill, although the fifth-year senior didn't seem to be as fast, didn't seem to have that quick burst like he did a year ago before getting injured in the 2015 opener at Nebraska.
"I'm too old for this," joked the 26-year-old. "Too much stress."
Hill rushed for 37 yards and threw for 202 and a touchdown. He threw for 31 yards and ran for 5 on the final drive that got the Cougars into field goal range, and the coaching staff was wise enough to save its last timeout needed when BYU committed a false start with eight seconds left.
"Field goal for sure," Hill said regarding the strategy on the last possession. "We needed a field goal. This is what we do all the time. We knew we had a great opportunity. … It's a great way to win a football game."
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BYU at Utah, 5:30 p.m. MT
TV: Fox Sports