Charlottesville, Va. • With about three minutes remaining in Saturday's eventual 19-16 loss to Virginia, BYU running back Jamaal Williams figured to be the Cougars' offensive player of the game.
Williams had set up BYU's go-ahead touchdown with 6:26 remaining with a 16-yard run to the Virginia 1, and he finished with 33 carries for 148 yards, just seven shy of his career-high.
But the sophomore put a blemish on his otherwise stellar performance by allowing a pass to slip through his hands with less than three minutes left, and Virginia defensive back Anthony Harris snared it to set up the Cavaliers' game-winner.
The player who threw the ill-fated pass, quarterback Taysom Hill, refused to blame Williams for the mishap, saying he threw the ball too high.
"Probably not, that's quite a bit," Hill said when asked if the game plan called for Williams to get 33 carries. "But he ran like a man today when it was raining the way that it was. The refs are spotting the ball, and when there is a splash from the ground, it is hard to get a ball that's wet and covered in dirt and grass and everything else to pitch and catch it."
Williams had 15 carries for just 40 yards in the first half before revving up in the second.
After the two-plus hour weather delay, the Cougars had the ball to start the second quarter at the Virginia 45 and gave the ball to Williams three straight times for rushes of 1, 2 and 2 yards, a puzzling sequence of play-calling from offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
"I was hoping to come out of the [delay] and start with that," Anae said. "Credit Virginia, they held tough right at that spot."
Asked about the conservative play calling at a critical juncture in the game, Mendenhall said the plays were run out of a completely different formation the Cougars had been showing.
"We thought one, two, or three of those plays would crack," Mendenhall said. "And so even though the plays looked conservative by result, the formation, we thought would give us an advantage."
In all, the Cougars rushed for 187 yards on 53 attempts. BYU's defense held Virginia to 109 rushing yards and 223 total yards, but it wasn't enough.
"We have some work to do in terms of our [offensive line] play and being physical," Mendenhall said. "But we put a long and sustained drive together in the end and couldn't have done that without continuing to battle."
Jamaal Williams' stats vs. Virginia
Carries Gain Loss Net TDs Long Avg.
33 148 4 144 0 21 4.4