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BYU's Tanner Balderree picked a nice time to score his first career touchdown

PROVO — At this point for BYU, close games are pretty much routine.

Six of the Cougars’ seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less, with almost every outcome going down to the final seconds or the final play.

It was more of the same late Friday night, as BYU outlasted Mississippi State 28-21 in double overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Tight end Tanner Balderree came through in the clutch, making two of the biggest plays of each OT period.

The Cougars trailed 21-14 in the first overtime when quarterback Taysom Hill fumbled. The ball rolled around on the turf for a moment before Balderree scooped it up and picked up 6 yards.

If Mississippi State had recovered that fumble, the game would have been over.

It was a fluke that Balderree was in the right place at the right time because he was out of position on that play.

“I ended up stumbling, trying to get back into it. The ball was there,” he said. “It was kind of an ironic thing because I made a mistake but it ended up working out OK. It was a blessing in disguise.”

Four plays later, Jamaal Williams scored a touchdown to tie the game, 21-21.

Then on the next play, at the start of the second overtime, Hill found Balderree on a play-action pass. Balderree caught the ball and rumbled untouched into the end zone — wide receiver Nick Kurtz made a key block — to lift BYU to its first lead of the game. It turned out to be the game-winning TD.

Balderree picked a nice time to score his first career touchdown.

“There’s usually a corner in the flat that’s ready to smack me in the knees,” Balderree said of the play. “I was surprised he backed off me. Nick had an amazing block that set it up for me to run to the corner. … It was exciting. It was surreal. I didn’t know what to think at first when I walked in.”

“(MSU) ran a delayed blitz. They had been doing that throughout the game so I was prepared for it,” Hill said. “It was so fun to get the ball to Tanner and let him do some work. Hats off to our guys blocking downfield and helping him get into the end zone.”

When the play was called, Balderree said he was “triple-checking” that he heard the call right. “I went over different scenarios with the coaches before I went out there to make sure I was ready for whatever they threw at us,” he added.

Hill finished with the night with three touchdown passes and one rushing TD. One of Hill’s other touchdown passes was to another tight end, Hunter Marshall, in the first quarter. It was also Marshall’s first touchdown at BYU.

With the win, the Cougars improved to 4-3 and they are riding a three-game winning streak going into Thursday night’s game at Boise State.

Even in its losses, BYU has been in position to win every game.

“That’s what our team has proven this entire season. We’re just resilient,” Hill said. “We have an obstacle and we need to get something done and we get it done. I’m impressed with our O-line and the way they stepped up in the overtime period.”

Balderree said he and his team are accustomed to heart-stopping finishes.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’ I think we’re getting good at it. The first games of the season were tight ones and we had to face some adversity that we weren’t used to yet with our new schemes,” he explained. “Through the trial and error of those first couple of games and seeing how we made little mistakes and not being able to finish, this game and other recent games that have been close, we’ve been able to figure out how to finish.”