Tanner Mangum

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BYU’s Zach Wilson throws perfect game in rout of Western Michigan in Potato Bowl

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The term “perfect game” is a baseball term, but it seems justifiable to use it to describe the performance of BYU freshman quarterback Zach Wilson in BYU’s blowout of Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Friday afternoon in Boise, Idaho. Wilson completed 18 of 18 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns as BYU (7-6) blew away Western Michigan (7-6) by a score of 49-18.

Behind the confident passing of Wilson, BYU took over control of the game in the second half. After trailing the Broncos 10-7 at halftime, Wilson quickly got the Cougars on the move with a 48-yard pass to Neil Pau’u and later ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Dylan Collie to put BYU in front. They never looked back. Wilson connected with Collie again on BYU’s next offensive series to build on the lead. Wilson later tossed a 70-yard touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo to extend the lead to 28-10 as BYU was in the midst of scoring four touchdowns in the third quarter.

Wilson did throw an incompletion on BYU’s next possession, but a defensive holding penalty on Western Michigan wiped out the incompletion on the stat sheet to keep Wilson’s perfect afternoon intact. Wilson’s fourth touchdown pass brought him within one completion of tying the all-time record for most consecutive passes to start a bowl game of 19, previously set by Mike Bobo of Georgia (now the head coach of Colorado State) in the 1998 Outback Bowl.

Wilson’s day would come to an end without another pass attempt. With a 42-18 lead midway through the fourth quarter, BYU head coach Kalani Sitake opted to bring in senior quarterback Tanner Mangum to wrap up his collegiate career. While Wilson was stealing the show on offense, BYU’s Sione Takitaki was having himself a day on defense with 19 tackles in the game.

While the season may not have gone quite as well as some BYU fans would have hoped to see, the Cougars did end the season with a winning record and on a winning note after winning just four games in 2017. Wilson’s bowl performance will have optimism riding high in Provo for next season as well. The regular season will start with some stiff challenges once again next fall with a home game against Utah to open the year followed by a road trip to Tennessee and then a home game against USC and Washington in consecutive weeks.

Western Michigan will go back to the drawing board a bit to try putting together a better season. Since going to the Cotton Bowl with an undefeated regular season a couple of years ago, the Broncos have gone 13-12 the last two seasons under head coach Tim Lester. The Broncos lost four of their last five games with the loss in the Potato Bowl with a couple of blowouts and a victory over the MAC champion Northern Illinois making it difficult to project just what to expect from the Broncos next season. This was a game that just got out of hand for Western Michigan after halftime and Wilson was just on a different level passing the football for BYU.

Report suggests BYU will make QB change vs. Hawaii

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After two straight losses by at least 25 points, BYU is reportedly making a change at quarterback this week. According to a report from Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune, BYU will start freshman Zach Wilson this week when the Cougars play Hawaii at home.

The change is not one that should be all that shocking considering the play of Tanner Mangum in recent weeks. A couple of unfortunate turnovers in BYU’s loss to Utah State led to BYU head coach Kalani Sitake to leave the door open for changes with starting positions, quarterback being the most likely change for a team in need of a spark.

Wilson has attempted just six passes this season with four completions for 64 yards and a touchdown. He has also rushed four times for 25 yards, supposedly giving another element to the BYU offense that Mangum has not been able to provide.

BYU enters the week with a record of 3-3. With some challenging games remaining in the second half of the year, Sitake needs to make decisions he feels puts BYU in the best spot to get to the six-win bowl requirement in order for BYU to have the opportunity to play in a bowl game at the end of the year.

A home game against Hawaii, who enters this weekend already at 6-1, could be a rough time for a transition, but if Wilson is the spark BYU needs, then the Cougars could be going bowling.

BYU snaps No. 6 Wisconsin’s home winning streak in non-conference play with 24-21 upset

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It has been a rough day of college football for a handful of Big Ten teams. None will suffer a loss as damaging as the one No. 6 Wisconsin (2-1) took at home against BYU (2-1). The Cougars pulled off an upset of Wisconsin, 24-21, that was essentially sealed in the final minute when Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone pushed his game-tying field goal attempt wide left.

The loss by Wisconsin was the first by the Badgers at home against a non-conference opponent since losing at home against UNLV on September 13, 2003. Wisconsin had won 41 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake chose to use two timeouts before Gaglianone’s late field goal try despite having 41 seconds remaining on the clock, potentially giving BYU’s offense chance to do something with the football in the event the game had been tied. But Sitake’s decision to play for no worse than overtime paid off in a big way.

BYU also did a good job of not letting Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor hurt them. Taylor rushed for 117 yards on 26 carries, but Taylor was held out of the end zone all day long and there was never a run that really hurt BYU. Wisconsin running backs Taiwan Deal and Alec Ingold did account for three rushing touchdowns.

It was BYU’s Squally Canada who led all players with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tanner Mangum completed just 12 of 22 pass attempts for 89 yards, and wide receiver Aleva Hifo threw the game’s only touchdown pass of the day with a 31-yard pass.

BYU’s special teams pinned Wisconsin inside their own 10-yard line for the final offensive possession by the Badgers in the fourth quarter, which seemed to play into BYU’

s favor with the game thrown into the hands of Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook did use safe passes and a couple of runs to his advantage to move Wisconsin into position for the game-tying field goal try. But that was a tradeoff that BYU likely would have taken every time.

The loss by Wisconsin will drop the Badgers off the playoff radar for now, but Wisconsin will have opportunities to hop right back into the discussion as the season progresses. With the games still to play for Wisconsin, the Badgers have a chance to not stay off the radar for too long, but this loss does do some damage to their profile well ahead of the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings. Meanwhile, BYU should be getting some consideration for the top 25 in the polls on Sunday.

Wisconsin opens Big Ten play with their first road game of the season next week. The Badgers travel to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in primetime. BYU will return home next week for a matchup against FCS McNeese State.

Davey O’Brien Award watch list highlighted by former finalists, semifinalists and SEC

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The Davey O’Brien Award (top quarterback) took the spotlight in the ongoing college football watch list tour on Wednesday morning. A total of 30 quarterbacks were named to the initial watch list for the award, including six from the SEC along with a few potential Heisman Trophy candidates and a Heisman Trophy winner.

Highlighting the watch list are two finalists from last season; Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has been a two-time finalist for the award. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Washington State’s Luke Falk are also on the watch list and are each two-time semifinalists for the award. Joining them on the watch list are former semifinalists Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)m and Wilton Speight (Michigan).

While the SEC led the way with six watch list players, the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 each had four players named to the watch list. The Big Ten had three, with Penn State’s Trace McSorley joining Barrett and Speight.

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson won the Davey O’Brien Award each of the past two seasons, becoming the second two-time winner of the award (Oklahoma’s Jason White in 2003-04). A player does not need to be included on the watch list in order to win the award, but only quarterbacks from the 130 FBS programs are eligible.

2017 Davey O’Brien Award Watch List

Austin Allen, Arkansas
Josh Allen, Wyoming
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Jake Bentley, South Carolina
Jake Browning, Washington
Shane Buechele, Texas
Sam Darnold, USC
Eric Dungey, Syracuse
Jacob Eason, Georgia
Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Luke Falk, Washington State
Riley Ferguson, Memphis
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Quinton Flowers, USF
Deondre Francois, Florida State
Jalen Hurts, Alabama
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Daniel Jones, Duke
Tanner Mangum, BYU
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Trace McSorley, Penn State
Shea Patterson, Ole Miss
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Wilton Speight, Michigan
Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee
Mike White, WKU
Logan Woodside, Toledo

The Davey O’Brien Award will be trim its watch list down to a handful of semifinalists on November 7. Finalists for the award will be unveiled two weeks later on November 21, and the winner will be announced on December 7 at the annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

CFT Previews: San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

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WHO: BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)
WHAT: The 12th San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
WHEN: 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

THE SKINNY: Former conference foes square off in this year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl when BYU faces Wyoming in San Diego. The two once faced each other regularly in the WAC and the Mountain West Conference before BYU opted to go independent in football during a massive conference realignment process, but this will be the first meeting between the two programs since 2010.

BYU lost starting quarterback Taysom Hill to a season-ending injury in the last game of the regular season so it will be Tanner Mangum getting the start at quarterback for the Cougars, which means a slightly different offensive approach. BYU likes to run the football, as they should with Jamaal Williams among the nation’s leading rushers with 1,165 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season, but having Mangum at quarterback could lead to more passing plays for the Cougars. Mangum passed for 3,377 yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago, so you know he is capable of tossing the ball around if called for.

Wyoming will look to end a wonderful turn-around season on a high note. In Craig Bohl’s third season as head coach of the program after leaving behind FCS juggernaut North Dakota State, Bohl has built a winner. Wyoming won just two game sin 2015 but put together eight wins this season and captured the Mountain Division championship to play for the Mountain West Conference championship. Though the Cowboys came up short in the conference championship game (losing to San Diego State), the Cowboys won games during the regular season against San Diego State and Boise State as well as Air Force and Colorado State. Progress has already been made under Bohl, but a bowl victory against BYU would be a fitting end to a successful season.

Wyoming will look to get running back Brian Hill in rhythm, but doing so against BYU’s defensive front should prove to be one of the more difficult challenges faced this season. Defense is where BYU has the advantage against Wyoming, and it should prove to be the difference in what should be an entertaining Poinsettia Bowl.

THE PREDICTION: BYU 34, Wyoming 30