Big-time players make big-time plays and that’s exactly what BYU defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku did Saturday afternoon as senior not only scored a rushing touchdown, but also had the game-winning interception to give BYU a 30-27 overtime victory over then-No. 24 USC at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
As fans rushed the field in celebration, Ghanwoloku could only smile as his teammates dogpiled on top of him. And for good reason as the senior got sweet revenge after several bad calls went against him in the second half.
Things looked great in the early going for the 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior as he scored BYU’s first touchdown of the game. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the half-yard line, Ghanwoloku took the pitch from Austin Kafentzis and behind the Cougar offensive line, as well as 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga, Ghanwoloku rumbled into the end zone to tie the game up at 7-7 early in the first quarter.
Then in the second half, it all started to fall apart.
With 1:23 left in the third quarter and with BYU facing a 4th-and-1 from USC’s 8-yard line, the Cougars turned to their goal line formation — the same play they scored on to open the game with Ghanwoloku receiving the pitch from Kafentziz and following right behind Tonga.
Despite appearing to get the first down, the refs ruled that Ghanwoloku was short by an inch, forcing the Cougars to turn the ball over on downs. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake even challenged the call, however, with so many players bunched together, the review was not conclusive enough to overturn the original call on the field.
To add insult to injury, a few minutes later, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. caught a 30-yard touchdown pass over Ghanwoloku to put the Trojans up 24-17 with just over 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. However, replay showed that Pittman — who should have been called for offensive pass interference in the process — went out of bounds and should have been called for illegal touching. The ref even took off his hat off to signal it as such. However after talking with the field judge, the flag was picked up and the touchdown was given to USC.
Yet, the senior leader didn’t let those bad calls faze him as he moved on to the next play. Whether it was offense, defense or special teams, Ghanwoloku was just looking to make a big play and redeem himself and that’s exactly what he did.
“I just want to be a playmaker, whether it’s offense, defense, or special teams,” said Ghanwoloku. “I go 100%. You go play where coach wants you to go play.”
The four-year starter and leader, always seems to come up with a big play just when the Cougars need it the most. For his career, Ghanwoloku has four touchdowns — two each on both sides of the ball — and his interception on Saturday was his sixth of his BYU career. The senior also had a career-high nine tackles against USC last week. And for his outstanding performance, Ghanwoloku was named the College Sports Madness Defensive Player of the Week.
Like former BYU great Taysom Hill, Ghanwoloku has turned into BYU’s “Swiss Army Knife” as the senior is always on the field and does whatever it takes to help the team win. Last year, he played safety all season and then ended up playing corner in the bowl game. Whether he’s playing on offense, defense or special teams, Ghanwoloku is always on the field and although he had some costly calls go against him on Saturday, he didn’t let it define him.