Provo • Down 24-20 with minutes left, BYU’s defense forced USC to punt. The Cougars started the ensuing drive on their own 48-yard line.
Then quarterback Zach Wilson made a pass he wasn’t proud of. The sophomore found himself under a little pressure, but was able to get out of it and found Gunner Romney open down the field.
After the game, Wilson would describe the 35-yard pass as a “terrible throw,” but it proved to be what the Cougars needed to stay alive. The ball floated a bit, but Romney was able to catch it. BYU eventually scored and then held USC to a field goal to go into overtime.
Wilson actually texted Romney late Saturday to apologize.
“He said 'I'm sorry for that one,'” Romney said. “He made a great play in the backfield getting away from all the defenders. So, I don't blame him at all. He made a huge play and it came up big.”
Romney thinks the way the team has played the past two weeks shows toughness.
“We've been able to come back and be able to persist in those hard situations at the end of games,” Romney said. “I think it shows the character that this team has and not giving up and fighting until the very end and being able to come out on top in those tough situations.”
Coach Kalani Sitake said the key to the team’s success has come down to one thing: the players keep working for it. The team continues to believe in each other and they trust that their energy and effort will pay off, he said.
The coach has drilled this into his players — that trust leads to confidence and that leads to good play. Just ask defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea.
“We trust one another,” Fauatea said. “I trust my linebackers, my corners, my safeties (and) they trust me. I think it’s just having that trust. When that trust comes and we make the plays, the confidence just goes up and up and up. And then that, going on each season and each game, it just grows.”
What also helped was BYU’s lack of turnovers.
Ever since the three turnovers against Utah in the season opener, the Cougars haven’t coughed up the ball once. And BYU scored seven points against Tennessee and 10 points off USC from turnovers.
“That’s a big part of the game, other than the score, I think that’s really important," Sitake said. “At the same time, I want our guys to still be aggressive.”
At the end of the day, Sitake said the team is still learning. And if they do commit a mistake, they are finding gritty ways to make up for it, such as Romney’s nice catch of a wobbly pass.
“It’s been really cool to see our guys, our players, at the forefront of it all,” Sitake said. “I’m having a lot of fun watching them lead and grow as a team.”
BYU will face its third ranked opponent of the season Saturday, when No. 22 Washington comes to LaVell Edwards Stadium. This is the 11th time these teams have met, but the first time the Huskies have visited Provo since 2010.
Sitake is hoping for a far more competitive outing after Washington handily beat BYU 35-7 in Seattle last year.
“Guys graduate and get drafted and they bring more guys in and it’s like they don’t even miss a beat,” Sitake said. “That was a great learning experience for us last year and we’re looking to see how much we learned from that and how much we learned from last week and see how we match up.”