Well, I had been convinced since August that Eagle’s Tanner Mangum would be the guy leading the BYU offense onto the blue turf against Boise State tonight. But Taysom Hill started the season under center, and the Highland High grad has stayed there. Mangum has played in only one game this year—the 31-14 win at Michigan State—and doesn’t have a pass or rush attempt. He has a redshirt year available, but unless there’s a loophole I don’t know about, he won’t be able to use it this year. The game at MSU was the fifth of the season, which is past the point of no return for getting a year back. So theoretically, there’s no reason Magnum couldn’t play tomorrow night if BYU needed him to. As a freshman last season, he threw for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
Hill has shaken off the rust resulting from almost one year out of game action due to his season-opening Lisfranc injury at Nebraska in 2015 and has led BYU to three straight wins. He has now completed 60 percent of his throws for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns against seven interceptions while adding 324 yards and four scores on the ground. He can still run the rock—he comes into Albertsons Stadium as a sixth-year senior with 2,540 career rushing yards. Hill returns to the scene of his 2012 coming-out party, when he led the Cougars on a 95-yard drive in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game had then-coach Bronco Mendenhall not elected to go for a two-point conversion in the confounding 7-6 Boise State win. In 2013, Hill ran roughshod over Boise State in a 37-20 win in Provo.
This is a battle-tested BYU team. Ten of BYU’s 12 foes this fall played in a bowl game last year, and before the season, CBSSports.com ranked BYU’s 2016 schedule the fourth-toughest in the nation. The Cougars come in on a three-game winning streak, with two of those victories versus Power 5 schools (Michigan State and Mississippi State), and their three losses have come by a combined seven points. But tonight’s game against No. 14 Boise State is the Cougars’ first this season against a team ranked at the time.
Just when it looked like the tight ends were weaving their way into the Boise State passing game came the win at New Mexico. Only four Broncos had receptions in that game, all of them wide receivers. Then came the Colorado State game. Same thing—no catches by tight ends. In fact, the position logged just two catches for nine yards versus Utah State. The tight ends had 10 grabs for 89 yards in the first three games of this season. But look back to that group’s production from last year: 59 receptions for 730 yards and six touchdowns. That facet of the Bronco offense is pacing way behind.
The strangest thing: Jake Roh, injured during fall camp and into September, has been back on the field since the Oregon State game but has just one reception this season. Roh should have at least three more—he was the target on an incomplete shovel pass near the OSU goal line in Corvallis. Then versus Utah State, a throw to Roh on Boise State’s first possession ended up at his feet—that was followed by another failed shovel attempt. The junior came into the season with 68 career catches for 765 yards and three TDs.
Boise State’s offense hasn’t turned the ball over since the first half of the win at Oregon State four weeks ago. And Brett Rypien threw all three of his interceptions this season back on September 10 against Washington State. But now, here comes Kai Nacua. The BYU senior safety is tied for the national lead in picks with five and has 13 in his career. It was Nacua who collected all three of the Cougars’ interceptions against the Broncos in Provo last year, including the 50-yard pick-six that put the game away in the final minute after Mangum’s Hail Mary touchdown pass.
One of the highłights of a challenging 2015 season for Idaho State was a 37-31 come-from-behind win at North Dakota. The Bengals get the Fighting Hawks in Holt Arena Saturday, but UND has a different look this year. North Dakota is 4-0 in the Big Sky and has won five straight since a 27-26 loss at FBS Bowling Green on September 10. ISU is trying to piece things together defensively after allowing 100 points and more than 1,000 yards combined the past two weeks in decisive losses at Portland State and Northern Arizona. The Bengals are 2-4 on the season, and all but one of their remaining opponents have winning records.
The NFL has named Jay Ajayi the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after his breakout 204-yard game in the Dolphins’ win over Pittsburgh last Sunday. In Miami, they’re liking the former Boise State star’s humble reaction to the feat. “It was good to have a performance like that,” Ajayi said in the Miami Herald. “(But I) don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, so I’ll just keep working.” Dolphins coach Adam Gase reflected on Ajayi’s moping six weeks ago, when he was left home for the season opener. “I think a little bit of it is he was handed that job (as the starter) early, and he could’ve gotten lost in that,” Gase said. “That was a little bit on me for not creating a better sense of competition. Things went bad there for 10 days. What he did do, though, is he came back got his head straight, focused on what he needed to do and got himself better.”
There’ll be one former Boise Hawk representing the American League in the World Series, and it’s not Josh Donaldson. Cleveland finished off Toronto in the ALCS yesterday 3-0 to win the series three games-to-one, and Brandon Guyer will be going with the Tribe on its quest for a first world championship since 1954. Guyer played in two games against the Blue Jays and went 0-for-4. Across the way, a bunch of ex-Hawks on the Chicago Cubs roster have new life, as the Cubbies racked the Dodgers 10-2 last night to even the NLCS at two games apiece.
Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich was not on the Giants’ 25-man roster for the NLDS last week. When spring training rolls around, Osich should have a 100 percent body and a fresh start with San Francisco. He had surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles to remove scar tissue from his left knee. Osich had an uneven summer, struggling off and on and spending time on the disabled list with a forearm strain. In 59 appearances in his second big league season, Osich was 1-3 with a 4.71 ERA after posting a 2.20 ERA last year as a rookie.
This Day In Sports…October 20, 1973:
Quarterback Danny White leads Arizona State’s high-powered offense to a then-school record 709 total yards in a 52-12 rout of BYU in 95 degree heat in Tempe. White, the future Dallas Cowboys signal-caller, was 17-of-25 passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns, adding 66 yards rushing and a TD scamper. The Sun Devils finished the season 11-1 under coach Frank Kush, topping Pitt 28-7 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Courtesy of The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)