Fighting and scraping for every single yard is one of the last things BYU running back Jamaal Williams expected to do against Mississippi State.
Once the Bulldogs made it clear they weren’t going to let the senior beat them on the ground, he had to take a different approach. Williams shifted from trying to bounce out to the edge and break off big runs and, instead, plowed up the middle as a workhorse back.
“They’re just a big defense,” Williams said. “The main focus was just to keep me from going outside and they did pretty well, so we started hitting them inside a little bit more and tried to make our shots from there.”
It paid off. Williams finally claimed BYU’s career rushing record with a 9-yard run on the Cougars’ first play in overtime. He finished with 76 yards on 26 carries to help BYU outlast Mississippi State for a 28–21 double-overtime victory.
The senior came into the game needing 64 yards to pass Harvey Unga (3,455 yards) and become the No. 1 all-time rushing leader at BYU. It took 23 carries to finally get there.
“They were trying to take him away from the game plan and it worked for the most part,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We were a couple of missed tackles away from basically blowing up the run game and getting big yards.”
Fans celebrated the accomplishment during a timeout by hoisting a banner listing Williams’ name, jersey number and achievement in big bold letters and numbers. He saw it briefly, but couldn’t really celebrate the accomplishment until after Tanner Balderree’s 25-yard game winning touchdown catch and BYU’s fourth down stop on the ensuing drive.
“I feel like I’m on a Taysom level now. It hit a warm spot in my heart to see the numbers up and the banner. It made me smile, but you got to get right back into game mode and finish the game.” —Jamaal Williams, BYU football senior
“I feel like I’m on a Taysom level now,” said Williams, who now has 3,467 career rushing yards. “It hit a warm spot in my heart to see the numbers up and the banner. It made me smile, but you got to get right back into game mode and finish the game.”
Here’s a look back at Williams’ top five rushing performances that contributed to him eclipsing the top career rushing mark at BYU:
Toledo (2016): The senior’s finest moment came in a wild 55–53 win over Toledo in late September. Williams set another school record after rushing 286 yards on 30 carries. He also tallied a career high five touchdowns. BYU needed every last one of those yards to survive a back-and-forth contest where they allowed the Rockets to churn out 692 yards of total offense.
Nevada (2013): Williams eclipsed 200 yards for the first time as a sophomore when he churned out 219 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to help BYU rally for a 28–23 victory over the Wolfpack. He set the tone in the second half when he ran untouched for 66 yards off the left tackle and down the middle of the field for a touchdown on the second play of the third quarter. It was his second-longest run of the season. This game also put Williams over the 1,000 yard plateau for that season.
Texas (2013): Taysom Hill wasn’t the only BYU player to run all over Texas. Williams took his turn in helping the Cougars gash the Longhorns for a school record 550 rushing yards. He showed no rust while the team endured a two-hour rain and lightning delay before the game, piling up 182 yards on 30 carries in the 40–21 rout over Texas.
West Virginia (2016): BYU ultimately fell short in making a late comeback in a 35–32 loss to West Virginia in September. Williams did everything he could do to give the Cougars several chances to win it. He totaled 169 yards on 24 carries and ran for a pair of touchdowns. Williams rushed for 101 yards in the first quarter alone. It would be the first of three straight games this season where he eclipsed the 100 yard plateau.
Michigan State (2016): Williams was one major reason why BYU broke open a close game in the second half and knocked out Michigan State 31–14. He rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Williams accounted for both of BYU’s fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Spartans. The second one he set up with a memorable 62 yard run to get the Cougars down to the Michigan State 2-yard line.