PROVO — The pass on third down-and-6 at the BYU 34-yard line may have been a little high, and the ball may have been a little waterlogged, but sophomore running back Jamaal Williams isn't making any excuses.
Had he caught the ball, or even had the ball fallen incomplete, it's likely that the outcome of last Saturday’s game against Virginia would have been different.
For four quarters, Williams did everything he could to help the Cougars win, including rushing for 144 yards.
As it turned out, though, quarterback Taysom Hill’s throw sailed in and out of Williams’ hands and into the arms of Cavalier safety Anthony Harris. One play later, with 2:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, Virginia scored the game-winning touchdown.
While offensive coordinator Robert Anae blamed himself after the game for calling the pass play that resulted in a costly turnover, Williams took ownership for not making the catch.
“It was on me, pretty much. I felt like I should have caught the ball,” Williams said Monday. “It might have been high. Taysom threw the ball, and I should have caught it. It touched my hands. I should have caught it. Now, it’s out of my mind. You can’t catch all of them. I knew I should have caught it. I didn’t.”
A torrential downpour during last weekend's contest made the ball wet and heavy, but that doesn’t change things in Williams’ mind.
“It’s football. You’ve got to go with it, even if it does feel heavy. I felt like I could have caught it. It was right there. I should have. The ball felt fine. ... It felt like it was in my hands. I just didn’t catch it.”
The Cougars’ convened for practice Monday, and it was about putting the gut-wrenching 19-16 loss behind them, while looking ahead to the next challenge — No. 15 Texas, which invades LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN2).
Now, it’s all about moving on — for both Williams and the Cougars.
“It’s over now. I had my boohoos after the game,” Williams said. “I talked to my mom and the coaches. I knew after that, the game was over with. It’s about Texas now. Virginia is out of my mind already.”
Williams said he and his teammates were focused on improving Monday.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulder in practice today,” Williams said. “I’ve never seen us be this good on a Monday. I’m real proud of our teammates today. We came out with some fire — angry from the Virginia game and ready to show people that we can beat Texas.”
Williams admitted to being “a little sore” after rushing 33 times for 144 yards, just 11 shy of his career high.
Monday’s practice session included a review of the Virginia game film, with an emphasis on third-down conversions — or the lack thereof. BYU converted on just 7 of 23.
“We knew we were struggling on third downs,” Williams said. “And we practiced third downs and did exceptionally well today. I’m glad my teammates and the coaches forgot about the Virginia game and we’re looking forward to Texas. We improved that fast on third downs today. Coach Anae tested us today and he’s going to be testing us in practice all week on third downs. I think we are up to the challenge.”
Coach Bronco Mendenhall had his team watch parts of last Saturday’s game that showed his players not only how close they were to winning that game, but also how good they can become.
“If everybody works hard, we can beat anybody. Coach (Mendenhall) showed us clips,” Williams said. “Virginia was giving up and they looked defeated. If we keep that mentality the whole game, they’ll stay defeated all four quarters. We made some mistakes, of course, that kept them in the game, and (as a result), we gave them the game. If we cut down on some of the mistakes and keep executing and do what we need to do, they’re going to get tired, bow down to our will and we’ll go out there and do our thing.”
Mendenhall also had his team watch its impressive 92-yard drive that put the Cougars up 13-12 midway through the fourth quarter.
“That was one of the key aspects Coach Mendenhall showed us today, that if we work hard and we keep executing, we keep the pace up and have that fire, we can go down and score on anybody,” Williams said. “That was a key drive in our game. Once I saw we could do that, I have full faith in this offense.”
No. 15 Texas (1-0) at BYU (0-1)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company