Imagine how deflated BYU felt two weeks ago, watching senior quarterback Taysom Hill limp off Nebraska’s field with a season-ending foot injury. Hill was an electrifying Heisman candidate who had bounced back from last year’s broken leg injury.
When true freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum took over, few knew the team was suddenly in the hands of a magician.
On the final play at Nebraska, Mangum heaved the ball 50 yards, just inside the end zone, where Mitch Mathews caught it for the victory. Fellow receiver Terenn Houk was so hysterical, he hugged the official who signaled touchdown.
The Associated Press wrote, “No matter how many games Tanner Mangum plays for BYU, it will be hard for him to top what he did in his first one.”
He topped it a week later.
Late last Saturday, in his home debut, with BYU students holding blue signs that said “4-TAYSOM,” Mangum faced fourth-and-7 from Boise State’s 35-yard line. There were 54 seconds remaining and BYU trailed 24-21, but Mangum didn’t just try to move the chains. He scrambled and went for it all again.
They called it another Mangum Miracle — a touchdown pass to Mitchell Juergens, leading to a 35-24 victory.
“To hear the stadium erupt like that was special because of what it meant for the team in that moment,” Mangum said.
Now, BYU is ranked 19th and heading to play No. 10 UCLA on Saturday. The Cougars are more than two-touchdown underdogs. Bet against them at your own risk.
UCLA has its own true freshman quarterback in Josh Rosen, a prodigy with a much different story. Rivals.com rated “Chosen Rosen” as the nation’s top overall recruit, coming out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif. Rosen, 18, won the starting job over veteran Jerry Neuheisel, then passed for 351 yards and three touchdowns in thumping Virginia 34-16 in the Bruins’ opener.
Mangum is 22. He was a highly coveted recruit himself coming out of Eagle, Idaho — in 2012. He went to the prestigious Elite 11 summer camp, where he was named co-MVP with some guy named Jameis Winston.
But while Winston went on win the Heisman and become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, Magnum set off on a 22-month Mormon mission to Chile, putting his college career on hold. It’s a common path for a BYU player.
“When you look at their team, it’s real interesting to see the age of some of their guys compared to our guys,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “[Mangum’s] got a certain maturity to him, which comes from those four years in life that he has that some of our guys don’t.”
Rosen is surrounded by elite players, including running back Paul Perkins, receiver Jordan Payton and linebacker Myles Jack. The Bruins returned 18 starters from last year’s 10-win squad. The only question was how they’d replace quarterback Brett Hundley. With Rosen looking like the real deal, the Bruins might be the best team in the Pac-12.
BYU has the nation’s 107th-ranked pass defense, so Rosen might have a field day. But few could question the Cougars’ resolve. After leaving the Mountain West Conference four years ago, they set sail as an independent. Their unrelenting September schedule takes them from the Rose Bowl this week to the Big House next week against Michigan.
With Mangum, anything seems possible.
“He’s got kind of some Johnny Manziel qualities,” Mora said. “Runs around, slings it and they come up with it. When he gets out of the pocket, he makes plays down the field.”
Two astonishing plays from back-to-back Saturdays that will be replayed on the national highlight reel for years.
• Rutgers probably postponed the inevitable by suspending coach Kyle Flood for three games instead of firing him. He contacted a professor multiple times, trying to improve one of his player’s grades. Flood wrote to the professor, “I am sending it from my personal e-mail to your personal e-mail to ensure there will be no public vetting of the correspondence.” Flood knew he was breaking the rules and tried to hide it.
• With Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah and David Cobb now in the NFL, the Big Ten has introduced new blood at running back.
Some impressive freshmen so far: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (8.9 yards per carry), Michigan State’s LJ Scott (6.4) and Madre London (5.2), Purdue’s Markell Jones (5.3) and the Gophers’ Rodney Smith (5.3).
• North Dakota and North Dakota State played each other for 109 consecutive years until 2003, when NDSU moved from Division to I-AA. North Dakota moved to that level (now called the Football Championship Subdivision) in 2008. The teams will renew their rivalry Saturday at the Fargodome, but they’re not scheduled to play again until 2019. UND leads the all-time series 62-45-3, but NDSU has won four consecutive FCS titles.
BIG TEN POWER POLL
1. Ohio State (2-0): The quarterback situation remains unsettled between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Poor Buckeyes.
2. Michigan State (2-0): After topping Oregon, the Spartans are now 5-1 in their past six games against top-10 teams.
3. Northwestern (2-0): The Wildcats travel to Duke after holding Stanford and Eastern Illinois to a combined six points.
4. Gophers (1-1): They are 20-2 when winning the turnover battle under Jerry Kill, including last week’s victory.
5. Wisconsin (1-1)
Robert Wheelwright emerges as another go-to receiver for Joel Stave, joining Alex Erickson.
6. Nebraska (1-1): Mike Riley has chance for a statement victory. The Huskers are three-point underdogs at Miami.
7. Iowa (2-0): The Hawkeyes will have people’s attention if they handle a Pitt squad missing RB James Conner.
8. Michigan (1-1): With strong defense and improving running game, the Wolverines are regaining their identity.
9. Illinois (2-0): After outscoring Kent State, Western Illinois 96-3, the Illini will get tested at North Carolina.
10. Rutgers (1-1): Brutal off-field news overshadowed a disappointing three-point loss to Washington State.
11. Penn State (1-1): Week 1 debacle at Temple looks a little better, since Temple went on to win at Cincinnati.
12. Purdue (1-1): The Boilermakers are a nice upset pick at home Saturday against Virginia Tech’s No. 2 quarterback.
13. Maryland (1-1): Quarterback Perry Hills (52.9 completion percentage, two INTs), got benched in favor of Caleb Rowe.
14. Indiana (2-0): No surprise that quarterback Nate Sudfeld averages close to 300 passing yards per game, now that he’s healthy.