In one of the most exciting endings in recent BYU history, Tanner Mangum connected with Mitch Mathews on a 42-yard Hail Mary as time expired to give the Cougars a heart-stopping 33-28 win on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cougars overcame significant injury losses on both sides of the ball, including Taysom Hill and Travis Tuiloma, to stun the Cornhuskers and snap a 29-game winning streak for Nebraska in opening games.
The Cornhuskers found the end zone first when Tommy Armstrong Jr. found Jordan Westerkamp for a 14-yard touchdown reception on their opening drive of the game.
BYU tied the game at seven on its third possession with a four-play, 99-yard drive that was capped off by a three-yard run by Taysom Hill. There were a couple of big plays that set up the Hill score, including a 24-yard reception from Terenn Houk followed by a 53-yard pass-and-catch from Hill to Nick Kurtz.
After another Armstrong touchdown pass gave Nebraska a 14-7 lead, BYU answered again. The Cougars marched 75 yards in just 2:03 as Hill scored from 21 yards out. One of the biggest plays on the drive came when Hill found Houk for a 19-yard gain on third and 10.
After a defensive stop, the Cougars took their first lead of the game when Trevor Samson converted on a 42-yard field goal attempt. One of the most important plays came when Devon Blackmon came away with a 21-yard catch-and-run on first and 20.
BYU pushed the lead to 10 on the next possession when Hill found Mathews from 15 yards out for the score. The touchdown was set up by a Fred Warner fumble recovery that gave the BYU offense excellent field position.
Nebraska closed the deficit to 24-21 when Terrell Newby scored from 10 yards out after Nate Gerry intercepted Hill and returned it deep into Cougar territory.
The Cornhuskers scored again to take the lead after Armstrong threw his third touchdown pass of the day when he found Trey Foster for a 9-yard score. The key play came when Armstrong extended the drive with an 11-yard run on third and 3.
The Cougars closed the gap to one when Samson hit his second field goal of the day from 35 yards out. One of the big plays came when Mangum found Kurtz for a 38-yard gain on fourth and 1.
BYU got the ball back with 76 yards to go after Drew Brown missed a 41-yard field goal attempt and moved the ball for the improbable finish. The Cougars moved the first 34 yards on a pair of runs from Mangum and a 17-yard gain from Adam Hine before the Mathews touchdown.
3. Mitch Mathews
Mathews only had three grabs but made the biggest play of the game when he caught the 42-yard touchdown throw from Mangum to give the Cougars the win. He finished the game with three catches for 69 yards and two scores.
2. Tanner Mangum
Mangum came in after the loss of Hill and made big plays with his legs and arm to give the Cougars the opening week win. He completed 7 of 11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown to go along with five carries for 26 yards in the running game.
1. Taysom Hill
Hill showed plenty of flashes of brilliance before he left the game for good. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown pass. He added nine carries for 72 yards and two more scores even though he missed most of the fourth quarter.
Analyzing the stats
Nick Kurtz caught five passes for 123 yards in his first appearance in a BYU uniform. That is the most yards by a BYU pass catcher in the opening game since Dennis Pitta had 11 catches for 213 yards in 2008.
Mangum and Hill combined for 378 yards passing. That is the most passing yards in a season-opener since Max Hall threw for 486 yards in a 41-17 win over Northern Iowa in 2008.
While the running game numbers were solid (126 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown), BYU had just 27 yards on 11 carries from running backs Algernon Brown, Adam Hine and Nate Carter. That is the lowest rushing total by running backs since a 2002 loss to Utah.
The Cougar defense allowed 126 yards on 37 carries. That is the lowest total running yards the Cougar have given up against a Power 5 team since it held Texas to 82 yards on 35 carries in 2014.
BYU committed four penalties for 30 yards. That's the least amount of penalty yards by a Cougar team since the 23-6 win over San Diego State in 2012.
The Cougars square off against Boise State in their first home game of the season. The Broncos started off the season with a 16-13 win over Washington Friday night.
Ryan Finley is a sophomore signal caller and is in his first season as the starter. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 129 and an interception in the win over the Huskies. He has plenty of weapons to work with, including returning standouts Thomas Sperbeck and Shane Williams-Rhodes. Sperbeck had 51 catches for 877 yards and three scores in 2014 while Williams-Rhodes came into the season with career totals 170 catches for 1,429 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns.
In Week 1, the ground attack was led by sophomore Jeremy McNichols. He finished with 24 carries for 89 yards and both Bronco touchdowns to go along with three receptions for 24 yards.