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Provo • Get used to it, BYU fans. Kalani Sitake's first year in Provo is destined to be remembered for razor-close games, even when an SEC team makes a rare visit to LaVell Edwards Stadium.
In their sixth nail-biter in seven outings, the Cougars held off Mississippi State 28-21 in double overtime in front of 62,184 fans eight minutes after the clock struck midnight Saturday morning.
BYU improved to 4-3, while MSU fell to 2-4.
"Glad we won. I will take it any way we can," said Sitake, noting how the close games are "taking their toll."
Regulation ended in a 14-14 tie.
Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime.
Going on offense first in the second OT, the Cougars scored on their first play, a 25-yard touchdown pass from Taysom Hill to Tanner Balderree, to take the 28-21 lead. BYU's defense, stout the entire second half, then held MSU out of the end zone when Nick Fitzgerald's heavily pressured pass on 4th-and-9 fell incomplete.
BYU fans stormed the field to celebrate the Cougars' fourth win as defenders Fred Warner and Dayan Lake hugged in the end zone.
"Overall, I am just really proud of our guys," Sitake said.
Fitzgerald scored the go-ahead touchdown in the first overtime on a leaping run, MSU's first score since four minutes remained in the first half.
BYU answered with a seven-play drive from the 25, capped with Hill's quarterback sneak to make it 21-21. Balderree was also the hero of that possession, scooping up a Hill fumble and advancing the ball 6 yards.
Somewhat lost in the frantic final moments was the fact that BYU running back Jamaal Williams picked up 76 yards on 26 carries to become the career rushing leader at the school, passing Harvey Unga. He broke the record with a 9-yard run in the first overtime and now has 3,468 yards.
Fitzgerald completed 17 of 36 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Hill was 15 of 26 for 140 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for BYU, which has won three straight games. He was 10 for 15 for 110 yards and two touchdowns after halftime.
"I am pleased with the resiliency of our players," Sitake said.
With the score tied 14-14, the Cougars had a chance to seize control when Kai Nacua came up with his nation-leading fifth interception to thwart an MSU drive that had reached the BYU 26.
But BYU went three-and-out for the third time in the game, and the visitors got the ball back with 6:49 remaining. A disputed pass interference penalty on an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-10 prolonged the drive, but the Cougar defense held on 4th-and-2 from their 31.
The Cougars then took over with 3:05 remaining, but a dropped pass on third down forced them to punt, giving the Bulldogs one last shot in regulation with 1:27 left. But they couldn't get a first down, and the contest went to overtime the Cougars' first extra-session game since the loss to Memphis in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl.
Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Cougars failed to score on their first two possessions of the second half, ending a streak of 10-straight second-half scoring possessions that dated back to the Toledo game.
They tied it at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter on their third possession after a 12-play, 48-yard drive.
Hill's 15-yard strike to Moroni Laulu-Pututau came after a holding penalty on Tuni Kanuch wiped out a would-be TD pass to Williams.
After trailing Auburn 35-0 at halftime last week, Mississippi State looked like an entirely different team defensively in the opening 30 minutes against the Cougars, giving up just 126 yards and one touchdown.
And the Cougars started poorly on both sides of the ball, failing to continue the momentum and display the confidence they garnered in last week's 31-14 win at Michigan State.
A substitution infraction on BYU too many men on the field on 4th-and-4 prolonged the Bulldogs' second drive after the first ended in a missed field goal, and three plays later Fitzgerald dumped a pass off to Keith Mixon, who took it 44 yards for a touchdown.
"Mississippi State did some good things on defense," Sitake said. "They pressured us and we didn't make them pay enough."
Hill threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Marshall on 4th-and-goal from the 1 to put BYU on the board.
BYU 28, Mississippi State 21
• Six of BYU's seven games this season have gone down to the wire
• It was BYU's first overtime game since the loss to Memphis in the Miami Beach Bowl in 2014
• Regulation ended with the score tied 14-14 in the third meeting between BYU and the Bulldogs