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Provo • The BYU Cougars picked up their 300th win in Provo on Friday night, but this one will be remembered more for being harder than it should have been than any milestone for victories.
Repeatedly misfiring on offense when they reached scoring territory until the fourth quarter, the Cougars finally put away pesky UConn 30-13 in front of 56,393 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum made some freshman mistakes, including a pair of interceptions, but otherwise rebounded nicely from last week's performance in that 31-0 loss to Michigan. He completed 35 of 53 passes for 365 yards and two touchdowns both to Mitch Mathews as the Cougars improved to 3-2 and started their four-game homestand in October off on the right foot.
But there were plenty of scary moments for the home team, which more than doubled the Huskies in total yardage and then finally doubled them up in points. BYU had 539 yards of offense, while UConn had 222 until its final possession.
After BYU dominated the first half, but had to settle for a 7-7 tie, the teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter.
Trevor Samson's 26-yard field goal with 13:24 remaining in the game gave BYU a 13-10 lead, the Cougars having to settle for the three points after having a first-and-goal at the UConn 6.
Kai Nacua and Bronson Kaufusi combined to make the play of the game for the Cougars a couple plays later, however. A blitzing Nacua blasted UConn quarterback Bryant Shirrefs as he was releasing a third-down pass, and Kaufusi picked it off.
Mangum then threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Mathews to finally give the Cougars some breathing room, 20-10. But UConn put together a 55-yard drive to make it a one-score game, capping it with a 42-yard field goal by Bobby Puyal.
A huge unsportsmanlike conduct call on UConn's Andrew Adams then prolonged a BYU drive, and Mangum's 6-yard touchdown pass to Mathews sealed it at 27-13 with 7:26 remaining.
The Cougars squandered their scoring opportunities from almost the opening kickoff.
The Cougars racked up 283 yards in the first half on 51 plays, but could muster only one touchdown. UConn matched that scoring output, but with just 24 plays that went for 104 yards.
Two first-half turnovers and a pair of errant field goal attempts kept BYU from taking control on the scoreboard, and the momentum swung UConn's way after Mangum's pass intended for Mathews was short and picked off by Jhavon Williams in the end zone.
The Huskies finally got their offense going after the pick and completed their first pass of the half with 3:13 remaining, a 21-yarder. Shirrefs misfired on his first four throws and was sacked three times before heating up late in the half.
BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki was ejected for targeting on the drive, giving the Huskies 15 additional yards, and on the next play Shirrefs threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to running back Arkeel Newsome to even the score at 7-7. The Cougars drove 87 yards on their second possession after fumbling the ball away on their first drive, and took a 7-0 lead on Francis Bernard's first career touchdown, from a yard out.
BYU played without senior running back Adam Hine, who is out four weeks with an ankle injury.
The Cougars picked up eight first downs in the first quarter alone, matching their entire output at Michigan and out gained the visitors 134-29 in the first 15 minutes.
BYU's third drive of the first half ended with Samson missing a 47-yard field goal attempt, snapping Samson's streak of nine consecutive made field goals. Mangum completed 16 of his first 17 passes, but hit a rocky stretch in the second quarter. The Cougars were on the move with around four minutes left in the half, but Mangum's ill-fated decision to throw a deep ball when he had plenty of other options underneath was snared by UConn's Jhavon Williams.
The Cougars drove to the UConn 20 just before halftime, but Samson's 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked with two seconds remaining.
R A week after posting just 105 yards, BYU's offense rolls up 539 in a win over UConn in front of 56,393 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
• Freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum throws for a career-high 365 yards and two touchdowns for BYU.
• BYU outgained UConn 283-104 in the first half, but the score was tied 7-7 at the break.