This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Well into Sunday morning in Provo, crews were hosing down the bleachers and mowing the grass of LaVell Edwards Stadium, performing the usual work that follows a late-night game.
In contrast to those routine duties, nothing is ordinary about this BYU football season. The final pass thrown by quarterback Tanner Mangum in each of the Cougars' two victories over Nebraska and Boise State created a lasting memory of its own. Lump them together, mixed in with the circumstances of the 22-year-old freshman's unscheduled rise to one of the most visible jobs on the campus, and the product is a developing story that's almost ridiculous. And it is happening at a time when BYU's football program definitely needed some validation.
The Cougars may complete their September schedule vs. UCLA and Michigan, look back and realize they were two plays away from being 0-4. The point is, they've stirred more interest and inspired more belief in the program's future than would have seemed reasonable going into this month, even with the prospect of quarterback Taysom Hill's staying healthy and doing great things.
Regardless of how it is happening or how sustainable this success is, Mangum is making BYU relevant at the moment. He's doing more than merely saving games. The No. 19-ranked Cougars already have made their 2015 season memorable and meaningful, all because Mangum's heaves keep landing in receivers' arms in the end zone.
BYU should have lost both games, and imagine how different the outlook in Provo would be if defenders had knocked down Mangum's last passes. The fact is, they didn't.
Mangum's late show against Nebraska and Boise State resembled the combined work of BYU's John Beck and Max Hall against Utah, stretched over a four-year period. He's looking like Brian Johnson, during Utah's unbeaten season of 2008. He's becoming another Adam Kennedy, who led Utah State's remarkable run in November 2011.
Those guys never followed a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play with another last-minute delivery into the end zone the very next week, though. And they were not doing this stuff in the first two games of their college careers. The 1980 Holiday Bowl vs. SMU ended miraculously with the last pass of Jim McMahon's college career. Mangum is just getting started.
As the latest episode unfolded, BYU faced a fourth-and-7 play at the Boise State 35-yard line. With an incompletion, the Cougars would have lost and Mangum and the offense would have been guilty of failing to reach field-goal range, trailing 24-21.
Mangum obviously didn't need to go for the touchdown at that moment. Boise State's pressure dictated his response. As he said afterward, "There was a possibility of going with a route underneath, but when I rolled out, I didn't really have much of a choice."
So he launched the pass toward Mitchell Juergens, who appeared open in the end zone. When the ball arrived, three Boise State defenders were in the picture, but Juergens leaped and stretched to make the catch with 45 seconds left. "We had guys there," said Broncos coach Bryan Harsin. "We were just a little out of position."
Nebraska's Mike Riley said pretty much the same thing the previous week, after Mitch Mathews caught Mangum's last-second pass. In Hill's absence, due to a season-ending injury in the opener, BYU's offense is missing any go-to element other than Mangum scrambling to his right and chucking the football downfield. Twice, he converted third-and-19 plays against Boise State, with passes of 84 yards to Juergens and 70 yards to Devon Blackmon.
Adam Hine ran for 80 yards on eight carries in the second half Saturday, offering some hope for a multidimensional offense. The next phase is some kind of intermediate passing game with Mangum, who lacks Hill's running ability. Of course, nobody finishes games like Mangum.
Necessity is part of the formula, with BYU having to come back in the end. That was true for Johnson in '08, when Utah's offense struggled in the second halves of landmark games against Oregon State and TCU, before he led winning rallies. In 2011, Kennedy replaced an injured Chuckie Keeton during Utah State's game at Hawaii and proceeded to win five straight games four via touchdown drives in the last minute or overtime. Two game-winners came via Kennedy's passes to Matt Austin, but not in consecutive games and never on the last play.
The same season, BYU trailed USU and Tulsa by four points before Riley Nelson's TD passes rescued victories with 11 seconds remaining in each case. Yet those games were nearly three months apart.
Clearly, no QB in the state's history has experienced two weeks like Mangum, who overcame Nebraska on the road and beat his hometown Boise State team in his first start in Provo. BYU's defense deserves credit for stops that enabled the offense to take one last shot in each game. Kai Nacua's interception return for a touchdown on the first play after the go-ahead score Saturday gave BYU a 35-24 win and provided a nice ending to his return from a suspension that followed the Miami Beach Bowl fight.
BYU lost in overtime that day as Memphis intercepted Christian Stewart's last pass, concluding a season when he otherwise filled in well for Hill. Mangum's statistics so far resemble Stewart's, except in the end.
Tanner Mangum's game-winning drives
1-10, BYU 24 • Pass incomplete.
2-10, BYU 24 • Mangum 11-yard run.
1-10, BYU 35 • Adam Hine 16-yard run.
1-10, Nebraska 49 • Pass incomplete.
2-10, Nebraska 49 • Mangum 7-yard run.
3-3, Nebraska 42 • Pass incomplete.
4-3, Nebraska 42 • Touchdown pass to Mitch Mathews.
1-10, BYU 36: 5-yard completion to Devon Blackmon.
2-5, BYU 41: 2-yard completion to Adam Hine.
3-3, BYU 43: Hine run for 19 yards.
1-10, BSU 38: 7-yard completion to Mitch Mathews.
2-3, BYU 31: Mangum sacked for 4-yard loss.
3-7, BSU 35: Pass incomplete.
4-7, BSU 35: Touchdown pass to Mitchell Juergens.