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Ann Arbor, Mich. • It would be easy to call what happened to BYU the Beatdown at The Big House on a beautiful Autumn afternoon in the heart of Big Ten country on Saturday.
But that would be a big understatement.
The No. 22 Cougars were taken to the woodshed in every way possible in front of the largest crowd to ever view a BYU game live and a national television audience, falling to Michigan 31-0 in one of the worst offensive performances in school history.
"I was disappointed beyond belief," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "And I think our players were, too."
In a stunning demolition that was settled well before halftime, unranked Michigan steamrolled the Cougars with 448 yards of offense, including 317 in the first half.
Senior Jake Rudock, who played miserably three weeks ago in Michigan's 24-17 loss to Utah, magnificently led the Wolverines to 31 first-half points while his defense refused to give an inch.
Rudock threw for 194 yards and a touchdown and ran for 33 yards and two more scores.
But the dominant force was 3-1 Michigan's defense, which couldn't create a turnover but did everything else to the overmatched Cougars, including forcing three-and-outs on six straight BYU possessions.
"We were dominated in every facet: their defense over our offense, every player, every play," said BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae.
How bad was it?
The Cougars suffered their first shutout since a 3-0 loss to Utah in 2003, had only 55 passing yards, and did not break the 100-yard barrier on offense until a minute remained. They finished with 105 yards. They never got past Michigan's 30-yard-line.
"They outmanned us, outplayed us, outperformed us, whatever you want to call it," said BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, who finally looked like the freshman that he is, completing just 12 of 28 passes and getting sacked three times. "They just took it to us."
And the Cougars weren't ready for it, Mendenhall, Anae and defensive end Remington Peck said after BYU fell behind 31-0 at the half, its worst half since it trailed Syracuse 42-7 of an eventual 42-14 loss in 2001.
"Mostly just probably more disappointing," said Peck. "We could tell right from the beginning of the football game that they had prepared better, they wanted to play better, and they were the better football team today."
Mendenhall had plenty of praise for Michigan's effort, calling the Wolverines "by far the best team we've played, to this point, this season, not only physically, but execution-wise."
He told his team earlier in the week to prepare for a bloodbath in terms of what practices would be like, then saw it play out on the field, with only one victim. And it wasn't just BYU's pride that was hurt; Five Cougars left with injuries running back Adam Hine, offensive lineman Kyle Johnson, linebacker Harvey Langi and cornerbacks Michael Davis and Micah Hanneman.
"They are a big, physical, tough football team," Mendenhall said. "And our injuries reflected that."
After watching his receivers fail to get open the entire game, and the Hine-led rushing attack get just 50 yards, Anae called it "my fault" while also agreeing with Mendenhall that Michigan is more talented than Nebraska, Boise State and even UCLA, the No. 9 ranked team that BYU somehow scored 23 points on last week.
"Shoot, that thing was a shell-shock from the first snap right up through the last," Anae said. "….We were beat from top to bottom."
The onslaught began after the teams traded punts on their first possessions and UM's Amara Darboh made a sensational one-handed catch for 21 yards on third-and-5. The Wolverines converted another third down on the drive, and took the 7-0 lead on Rudock's 3-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars got a 29-yard run from Hine, which turned out to be their sole offensive highlight of the game, and moved the ball to UM's 36. But Mangum was sacked on a crucial 3rd-and-6 play. The Cougars' best chance to score after that came midway through the third quarter when UM punter Blake O'Neill was tackled 2 yards short of the line to gain.
They picked up their first first down since their second possession, but Mangum was sacked for a 14-yard loss and the series ended with another punt.
So the Cougars (2-2) ended their so-called September to Remember in totally forgettable fashion, embarrassed and searching for answers. It is back to the drawing board, a disconsolate Mendenhall said in the postgame interview room.
"As far as we are concerned, this starts our season over again," he said. "A wild and fast start, and exciting, carried through on some momentum, even last week. But this is a restart without all the TV now, without all the accolades. …I would have loved to have had our team prepared at a higher level. Certainly, I am responsible for how we play. And that always hurts more than anything else, to not have our team execute and be sharp and disciplined and perform the way I believe they are capable. So that is my responsibility to get that done."
R BYU is dominated every way possible and suffers its first shutout since a 3-0 loss since 2003 in front of a crowd of 108,940 at The Big House.
• The Cougars pass for just 55 yards and don't break the 100-yard barrier until the last minute of the game.
INSIDE • This may count as just one defeat for the Cougars, but its damage will be extensive, explains Tribune columnist Kurt Kraghtope. > C7