By Jimmy Hyams
You can’t lose that game.
You can’t be ahead with the opponent backed up at its 20-yard line with less than 20 seconds to go and lose.
You can’t let a receiver get behind you.
Let him catch a 10-yard pass, a 20-yard pass, a 30-yard pass.
But not a 64-yarder.
Receiver Micah Simon streaked past Tennessee sophomore cornerback Alontae Taylor for a game-changing gain that put Brigham Young in position for a game-tying field goal with one second left.
In the second overtime, the Cougars crashed into the end zone with a convoy of blockers and pushers escorting Ty’Son Williams into the end zone from the 5-yard line to give BYU an improbable 29-26 victory before a stunned crowd at Neyland Stadium that included about 8,000 visiting fans.
“It’s a tough pill for everybody to swallow,’’ Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
Tennessee lost its opener to Georgia State because of lack of effort.
Tennessee lost to BYU because of lack of discipline.
You can’t blame Taylor’s inexcusable error on youth.
Any college corner knows you have to keep the receiver in front of you.
Any high school corner knows you have to keep the receiver in front of you.
A middle schooler knows it.
Asked if Taylor was rattled when the game went into overtime, Pruitt almost erupted.
“He should’ve been rattled after I got on him,’’ Pruitt said post-game. “Just use a little common sense.’’
What defense was Tennessee in?
“The same one we called the previous play when they lost 12 yards,’’ Pruitt said. “We’re in deep thirds and the guy (Simon) gets 20 yards behind our guy.’’
UT didn’t actually cause BYU to lose 12 yards on its last possession, which started at its 16 with 1:01 left.
On the first play, BYU was called for holding and was pushed back to its 8. On the next play, quarterback Zach Wilson threw an incompletion. On the next play, Wilson scrambled for 12 yards to the 20.
Facing third-and-six and the clock running, Wilson hit a wide open Simon for a 64-yard gain to the UT 16 with seven seconds left.
After BYU spiked the ball, the Cougars kicked a gut-wrenching, game-tying 33-yard field goal.
BYU scored a touchdown in the first overtime but the Vols gamely matched that by converting a third-and-11 and then a third-and-10 TD pass to Jauan Jennings.
In the second overtime, UT could only manage a field goal.
BYU used two runs to the 5-yard line before pile driving it into the end zone for the game ender.
“They willed themselves into the end zone, in my opinion,’’ Pruitt said.
Tennessee failed to convert a critical fourth-and-1 at its 30 with just over four minutes left could have helped seal the deal.
UT failed on another fourth-and-1 toward the end of the first half that led to a field goal and a 13-3 halftime lead.
UT also missed on a fourth-and-1 in field-goal range early in the second quarter.
Those failures were costly.
“We’ve got to have the will power to get it in the end zone,’’ Chandler said.
The defeat usurped a nice bounce-back performance for the Vols from the 38-30 debacle against Georgia State the week before.
The Vols’ offensive line was much better as UT took advantage of off-tackle runs and sweeps to pile up 242 yards rushing – 154 by Ty Chandler and 77 by true freshman Eric Gray.
UT outrushed BYU by 135 yards, outgained BYU 418-339, held the ball for eight more minutes, ran 77 plays to 60, and never trailed until overtime.
Tennessee is 0-2 for the first time since 1988, when the Vols opened 0-6 before winning the last five games of the season.
These Vols are reeling and appear to lack confidence.
Can they bounce back from this?
“I’ve been through worse here,’’ senior offensive tackle Marcus Tatum said.
Did that refer to a coaching change? Or losing to South Carolina in 2016 with the East Division title on the line? Or losing to Vanderbilt in 2017 with a Sugar Bowl bid on the line?
What matters now is Tennessee must regroup in a hurry.
“We’ve got to continue to fight,’’ Tatum said.