Excitement is building for this Saturday's big college football game between BYU and Boise State.
At quarterback, BYU will go from the known to the known. Taysom Hill, who is recognized as one of the top collegiate signal-callers in the land, now knows if he didn't have bad luck he wouldn't have any at all. Hill has spent a good part of his career at BYU on the sideline dealing with injuries, and in last Saturday's game, Hill again received bad news that he would be out for the season with a foot injury.
Why the statement the known to the known? For any other opponent, new starting quarterback Tanner Mangum would be unfamiliar, but then he did come from Eagle, Idaho (just minutes from Boise), and nearly every Boise State coach and fan is aware of him, what he does, and what he's good at.
Mangum led Eagle High School to a 5A runner up finish his senior season, completing 268-of-393 passes for 3,885 yards and 35 touchdowns. Mangum was one of the most highly-regarded quarterbacks coming out of high school--he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the Under Armour All-America Game and was selected as one of the nation's "Elite 11" quarterbacks. Mangum had all kinds of scholarship offers, including those from Arkansas, Oregon State, Utah and others, but he narrowed it down to two--BYU and Boise State. Finally, he told former Boise State coach Chris Petersen he had chosen the Cougars.
Mangum came in for Hill against Nebraska last Saturday and led the Cougars to a comeback win, including the crowning touch--a 42-yard "Hail Mary" pass in the game's final seconds that Mitch Mathews caught on the one and then rolled into the end zone. Mangum completed 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards in the victory.
(BroncoCountry video by Shelby Ransom)
Bronco linebacker Ben Weaver is well aware of Mangum.
(BroncoCountry video by Rod Couch)
While the Cougars completed their dramatic comeback, Boise State, meanwhile, had its hands full with Washington, securing a victory only when a Husky field goal try in the final seconds sailed just right of the crossbar. Bronco head coach Bryan Harsin believes his team and BYU have a lot in common after one week of play.
While Mangum may not have the element of surprise going for him, what he does have is a group of receivers that look like basketball players. Mangum and seniors Mathews (6-6, 215) and Terenn Houk (6-5, 225) and junior Nick Kurtz (6-5, 205) will try to utilize that height to play keepaway from the Bronco secondary.
Kurtz is an excellent addition to the BYU receiving corps after transferring from Grossmont Junior College. Kurtz produced 1,301 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns the past two seasons at Grossmont, and came up big last week in the win over the Cornhuskers with five catches for 123 yards.
If Boise State wants to know anything about Mathews' ability, all they need do is consult the Nevada Wolf Pack. Mathews had a career day last season against the Pack, recording 16 receptions for 182 yards. Mathews finished the season as the leading Cougar receiver with 73 catches for 922 yards and nine touchdowns.
Houk started four games last season for BYU, and had 21 receptions for 241 yards and two scores. The task for the Boise State corners will be to leap up and separate the Cougar players from the ball before their long arms can pull it down.
(BroncoCountry video by Shelby Ransom)
Boise State cornerback Jonathan Moxey knows facing the BYU receivers will be a challenge, and he has been working hard to prepare.
Mathews, Houk and Kurtz will be joined on the field by senior Devon Blackmon (6-0, 187, Sr.). After first going to Oregon, Blackmon transferred to Riverside City College, where he helped his team to a 10-2 record. ESPN rated Blackmon the #4 JC receiver.
Other than rushing by Hill and Mangum last week, BYU did not attempt many rushes in their win over Nebraska (12 combined attempts for 24 yards). Boise State coaches and players expect that to change, as the Cougars shift to the run to take some pressure off the true freshman, Mangum, and set him up to fire to the tall BYU receivers. Juniors Algernon Brown (68 rushes for 324 yards last season) and converted linebacker Toloa'i Ho Ching and senior Adam Hine (who had four carries for 39 yards last week) are expected to see plenty of time in the BYU backfield.
Ryker Mathews (6-6, 322, Sr.) is the leader of the Cougar line at left tackle, earning a spot on the Outland Trophy Watch List prior to this season. The lineup also features three sophomores--center Tejan Koroma (6-0, 290), right guard Tuni Kanuch (6-3, 330) and right tackle Ului Lapuaho. Kanuch (from Bingham High School in Utah) was named an All-American by MaxPreps, while Koroma was the #25-rated center coming out of high school from Allen High School in Texas. With another upperclassmen, junior Kyle Johnson (6-4, 303), joining senior Mathews on the left side of the line at guard, think the Cougars might be running left to take advantage of that experience? Probably more often than not.
While the Cougar offensive line is comparatively young, the BYU defensive front is not. The Broncos will see three seniors there--ends Bronson Kaufusi and Graham Rowley and tackle Logan Taele. (Kaufusi is 6'8" (280 pounds) Rowley stands 6-4 (also 280) and Taele is 6-2 (293). Kaufusi was invited to play in the 2010 Under Armour All-America game, and likely has a good line of communication with the Cougar defensive line coach--Steve Kaufusi is Bronson's father. Kaufusi recorded 43 tackles, 11.5 for loss, and seven sacks last season and is on Watch Lists for both the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. Rowley chose BYU over offers that included Washington, Stanford, Arizona, Louisville and Colorado, and was rated as the #11 guard in his senior class before concentrating on the other side of the ball. Taele had 31 tackles for the Cougars last season with two of them for loss.
The Cougar defense also features good experience at linebacker, with seniors Jherremya Leuta-Douyere (6-0, 230) and Manoa Pikula (6-1, 235) and junior Harvey Langi (6-3, 240). Pikula registered 49 tackles last season, while Leuta-Douyere posted 32. Sophomore Fred Warner (6-4, 225) is the fourth member of the unit.
That front seven is the basis for expectations that BYU has one of the top defenses in the country. The corners will be sophomore Micah Hannemann (6-0, 200) and junior Michael Davis (6-2, 195), Kai Nacua (6-2, 213) will start at free safety, and junior Eric Takenaka (5-11, 205) will be what the Cougars call their "KAT" player. Hannemann had six stops and his first career interception last week against Nebraska, while Davis had 43 tackles and six pass breakups last season for BYU. Nacua posted 40 tackles and two picks last year
Trevor Samson, who connected on 12 of 14 field goals last season, is the placekicker and junior Jonny Linehan takes over the punting. Takenaka is slated to return punts, while senior Adam Hine and junior Austin Brasher will be back to field kickoffs.
(BroncoCountry video by Shelby Ransom)
Bronco sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols knows the Cougar crowd will be pumped and it will be a tough environment. The clash between Boise State and BYU stands to be one of the biggest collegiate games of the weekend--kickoff is set for 8:15 pm. Mountain Time tomorrow night.
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