Nebraska (0-1) fans had to feel concerned when one second was left on the clock as BYU’s (1-0) last offensive possession was running out of time. Just as it did in 2009 in the Big 12 championship game against Texas, that last second came back to haunt Nebraska. BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, in relief of an injured Taysom Hill, unloaded a Hail Mary pass to the end zone, and Mitch Matthews somehow came down with it across the goal line for a wild 33-28 lead and the win. The officials needed to review the final play, but it did not take long to confirm the call on the field for the game-winning touchdown. It was Mangum’s only touchdown pass of the game.
After the game BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hill is done for the season. The quarterback was roughed up at times and needed to leave the game twice for medical attention. That will put the offense in the hands of Mangum moving forward, and that is a tough blow to BYU.
BYU established some dominance in the first half by taking a 24-14 lead into halftime, but the Cornhuskers roared back in the second half to take a 28-27 lead into the fourth quarter. But BYU clamped down and prevented Nebraska from tacking on any more points. Meanwhile, the offense chipped away and moved into position to pull the stunner on Nebraska.
Hill ended his day with 268 passing yards and a touchdown pass to go with his 72 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. His counterpart, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, had 318 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the running game split contributions in the post-Ameer Abdullah era.
For Nebraska, at least it wasn’t the worst loss of the day suffered by a Big Ten team (that distinction belongs to Penn State). It did, however, do nothing to help boost the Big Ten’s sluggish start to the season’s non-conference action. Michigan and Minnesota each lost to power conference teams on Thursday night. Penn State just went down to Temple. Now Nebraska had a setback against BYU. These are the types of games the Big Ten could not afford to lose to carry over momentum gained from a nice postseason run last year. But hey, at least Northwestern topped Stanford today, so it’s not all bad for the Big Ten and Big Ten West (Wisconsin vs. Alabama pending).
For BYU, this is a great start to a very challenging September. The Cougars have Boise State, UCLA and Michigan still to play, but breaking even with a 2-2 record was always viewed as a realistic possibility and a positive start to the season. That’s still in the fold for BYU. Heck, a winning record may not be impossible to grab.
The Mike Riley era at Nebraska is off and running. And throwing. But BYU is the team with the upper hand at the halftime break, thanks to a 17-0 run to build a 24-14 edge on the Huskers.
Nebraska got on the board first with Armstrong completing a pass to Jordan Westerkamp. It was just a 14-yard play, but Westerkamp ran nearly three times that distance after somehow getting out of traffic on the left side of the field and finding daylight down the right side for the touchdown.
BYU had their backs against their end zone in the first quarter, but Taysom Hill quickly changed the field position with a 24-yard pass followed by another for 53 yards to Terenn Houk and Nick Kurtz, respectively. A defensive pass interference call against the Huskers helped move the ball to the three-yard line two plays later, and Hill crossed the end zone on the next play. Nebraska responded with its second touchdown of the first quarter when Armstrong completed a touchdown pass to Alonzo Moore from 22 yards out. Hill and BYU responded as well when the dual-threat quarterback scampered 21 yards for a touchdown. Hill left the game temporarily for some medical treatment immediately following his touchdown run. Hill returned later and connected on a touchdown pass with Mitch Matthews shortly after Nebraska lost a fumble. That score was the latest in a 17-0 run by the Cougars, and gave BYU a 10-point lead (24-14).
The first half was not without its share of controversy though. BYU defensive back Jordan Preator rolled into the back of the legs of Nebraska wide receiver David Sutton as a pass from Armstrong fell incomplete. Replays can sometimes be left to interpretation, but some felt Preaton took a cheap shot on the Nebraska receiver, who had to leave on a cart as a result. No flag was thrown from any of the officials, with two on the sideline observing the entire sequence.
The game has a long way to go still, so Nebraska is certainly not out of this one given how quickly the Huskers can score, but BYU’s defense is locking in and now has a double-digit lead to protect.
BYU’s leading receiver, Cody Hoffman, has been suspended for one game for a violation of team rules, the school announced Friday afternoon. Hoffman leads the Cougars with 171 yards this season and led the team with 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011.
The details of the suspension are not known beyond the typical violation of team rules.
BYU faces Middle Tennessee State tonight in Provo. The Cougars should be able to survive this one without their top target in the passing game. BYU has thrived on the running game so far this season and that should once again be the case Friday night. Middle Tennessee State is ranked 60th against the run this season. As it turns out, BYU may have been able to take advantage in the passing game tonight. Middle Tennessee State is ranked 106th against the pass so far this season.
Sophomore Mitch Matthews has been listed behind Hoffman on the BYU depth chart, so he may be the most likely replacement. Matthews has played in all three games for BYU and ha five catches for 75 yards. BYU has scored just one touchdown through the air this season.