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BYU edges Arizona, 18-16, on late field goal in Sitake’s debut

SHARE BYU edges Arizona, 18-16, on late field goal in Sitake’s debut
We practiced it quite a bit. Ed (Lamb) made the decision and I was OK with it and it worked out. I’m really proud of Jake (Oldroyd). – Kalani Sitake

GLENDALE, Arizona — BYU freshman Jake Oldroyd booted a 33-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to ensure a successful debut for coach Kalani Sitake in the season opener against Arizona.

“It was a great game and things went our way. We were able to get the victory," Sitake said. "This isn’t about me, this is about these guys. They worked extremely hard for this win.”

The Cougars nearly squandered the game after leading the entire time up until the final 1:26 remaining, when Arizona running back Nick Wilson scored on a 49-yard touchdown run up the middle to give the Wildcats a 16-15 advantage.

But BYU struck back, driving to the Arizona 16-yard line with eight seconds left.

Sitake consulted with assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Ed Lamb and they decided to send in Oldroyd, who replaced Rhett Almond.

“It’s probably not a good time to do it but Ed feel really comfortable with Jake being in that position," Sitake said. "We practiced it quite a bit. Ed made the decision and I was okay with it and it worked out. I’m really proud of Jake.”

Oldroyd nailed the kick, his first collegiate attempt, and the Cougar defense stopped the Wildcats on the final play of the game in the Cactus Kickoff Classic Saturday night before a crowd of 50,528 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I told him I wanted to give him a big kiss," said quarterback Taysom Hill. "I didn’t but it’s so much fun to put so much work into performing and then you have an opportunity and he took full advantage of that opportunity. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of him.”

Hill, playing in his first game since last year’s season opener, and running back Jamaal Williams, playing in his first game in nearly two years, led BYU’s balanced offensive attack.

Hill completed 21 of 29 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown while Williams ran 29 times for 162 yards.

“Jamaal was the MVP, for sure. He carried us," Hill said. "He was a beast the entire game.”

Video: Freshman Jake Oldroyd hits the 33-yard game-winning field goal for @BYUfootball vs. Arizona pic.twitter.com/AxExB1L17T

— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) September 4, 2016

On BYU's final drive, Hill moved the offense 53 yards in nine plays.

“We stayed cool and collected and we did everything we needed to do to win," Williams said. "In practice, we do that all of the time."

Arizona seized the momentum midway through the fourth quarter — until BYU safety Kai Nacua intercepted a floating pass by Wildcat quarterback Anu Solomon with 5:52 left in the game.

But Arizona wasn’t done. When it got the ball back, Wilson grabbed the lead on his long run.

Then BYU sent in its unlikely hero, Oldroyd.

The Cougars seemed poised to take control of the game at the start of the third quarter, but an illegal shift penalty nullified a long run by Williams and the drive eventually stalled.

Arizona countered with a drive that started at its own 2-yard line and culminated with a 46-yard field goal by Josh Pollack that cut the Wildcats’ deficit to 9-3 with 5:59 remaining in the third quarter.

On BYU’s next possession, Williams burst for a 36-yard scamper that set up another scoring drive. The Cougars drove to the Arizona 6-yard line, where Hill threw a touchdown pass to Colby Pearson to put BYU up 15-3 with 11:36 remaining in the game, after a two-point conversion attempt failed.

Welcome back Taysom Hill! Touchdown @BYUFootball! #BYUvsAZ https://t.co/FkGFnVXmhv

— FS1 (@FS1) September 4, 2016

The Wildcats countered, however, with a two-minute, 75-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown on Wilson’s 15-yard run with 9:33 left. At that point, Arizona pulled to within 15-10.

The Wildcats built on that momentum by forcing a BYU punt. The Cougar drive was marred by back-to-back penalties, a delay of game and a false start.

Arizona was driving again before Kai Nacua’s interception of Anu Solomon with 5:52 remaining.

After a scoreless first quarter, BYU’s offense and defense settled into a rhythm.

Early in the second quarter, Williams’ 43-yard touchdown run was negated by an illegal block in the back penalty, but he was still credited with 33 yards. Six plays later, Rhett Almond’s ugly, low kick slipped over the crossbar to give BYU a 3-0 lead with 10:42 left in the period.

On Arizona’s ensuing possession, linebacker Francis Bernard intercepted Anu Solomon, setting up an 11-play, 65-yard drive that saw BYU move methodically downfield, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Brayden El-Bakri on his first career carry to make it 9-0 with 2:53 left in the half as Almond missed the PAT.

El-Bakri punches it in to extend the lead 9-0 late in the 2nd! #BYUvsAZ pic.twitter.com/CiA1Jy9oD8

— Brandon Henson (@bhenson23) September 4, 2016

The Wildcats marched into Cougar territory at the end of the half, but a 16-yard sack by Bernard proved to be a huge play as Arizona missed a 52-yard field goal as time expired.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com