KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — For nearly 60 minutes, BYU’s offense sputtered and lurched against Tennessee. 

But the Cougars sprang to life in the closing seconds of regulation, putting together a memorable drive to set the stage for an even more memorable ending. 

Trailing by three and backed up deep in its own territory with less than a minute remaining in the game, things looked dire for a BYU offense that had been punchless most of the night.

“The odds were against us,” said quarterback Zach Wilson. 

On third-and-six at the Cougar 20-yard line, Wilson completed a pass to Micah Simon, who raced 64 yards to the Volunteer 16-yard line.

That led to a game-tying field goal by Jake Oldroyd to force overtime with five seconds remaining — and an eventual 29-26 victory in double overtime Saturday night in Southeastern Conference country before a crowd of 92,475.

“I wish we just could have figured it out earlier. We had a lot of stalled drives, stuff like that. A win’s a win. I’m happy we got that done,” said Wilson. “We were fighting through adversity and we weren’t going to quit. Heading into that final drive, guys were smiling on the sideline and I was smiling. Why be nervous? We have nothing to lose. Let’s go figure it out. I’m so happy those guys had that fight down to the last second.”

“These are things you dream of as a kid, wanting to play in great stadiums like this, playing against great teams,” Simon said. “That’s one thing I love about us being independent and being able to travel all across the country and play great teams. It means a lot and I’m excited for this opportunity and we took advantage of it.”

Simon made the biggest play of his career when his team needed it most. 

“I thought I was fast enough to score, but they have great athletes that tracked me down,” Simon said. “While I was running, I peeked up (at the scoreboard) to see the time. Then I looked behind me and there was a guy behind me. I wanted to secure the ball and give Jake the Make a chance to tie it up and take us into overtime.”

“He’s been in that situation before,” coach Kalani Sitake said of Oldroyd’s 33-yard field goal with one second left in regulation. “He’s so mentally strong. We trusted him to be able to do it.”

Fittingly, grad transfer Ty’Son Williams, who previously played at South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference, scored the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime period. He took a handoff and pushed through the pile, following his offensive linemen, into the orange checkerboard end zone.

 “It was a great way to end the game. He’s come from the SEC,” Sitake said of Williams. “He’s been here before. It was a big old scrum play.”

Williams is now 3-0 in his career against Tennessee.

“It was a power play, we call it. I just got in there and got dirty,” said Williams, who finished with 17 rushes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, of the final play. “I kept my feet moving and was able to get into the goal line and score a touchdown.” 

“It was huge. I was like, ‘We’ve got momentum on our side, this dude’s running the ball hard and the O-line is creating a good push,’” Wilson said of Williams’ game-winner. “Let’s give it to him and see what he can do. He had a good push. He stayed on his feet and the O-line was keeping him up. I was so happy to see that.”

BYU (1-1) didn’t take its first lead of the game until the first overtime, when Wilson threw a 14-yard touchdown strike to Talon Shumway to give the Cougars a 23-16 lead.

But the Volunteers responded by scoring on a 13-yard TD pass. Then Tennessee jumped ahead 26-23 at the start of the second OT on a 40-yard field goal. 

Three plays later, Williams scored the decisive TD and the BYU sideline — and the estimated 10,000 Cougar fans in attendance — erupted and celebrated. 

No doubt, Saturday’s game featured two teams desperate for a win. 

BYU was trying to shrug off a demoralizing ninth-straight loss to its archrival. Tennessee was trying to forget a humiliating loss at home to Georgia State. 

In the end, the Cougars were standing on top of Rocky Top, leaving the Volunteers winless. Tennessee is 0-2 for the first time since 1988.

“We had a lot of guys that fought, that played really, really hard,” said Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt. “But bottom line, there were a couple errors we made that you can’t do. That you just don’t do.”

For BYU, the offense didn’t play as cleanly or efficiently or productively as it had wanted. But the Cougars got the result they wanted. And needed.

“It just happened at the right time for us,” Simon said.

BYU hosts USC next Saturday.