PROVO — The outcome was never really in doubt in BYU's 37-7 victory over Southern Utah University Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, giving the Cougars ample opportunity to give snaps to younger players.
From seeing sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum throw his first pass of the season to KJ Hall posting strong numbers, here's a look at five observations of the Cougars' win over the T-Birds:
Mangum largely positive, if unspectacular
Mangum entered the game in the second quarter to a loud ovation and completed his first pass of the season to fullback Brayden El-Bakri for 12 yards. That drive quickly stalled, though.
He re-entered the game in the second half and proceeded to lead two field-goal scoring drives. Mangum's final stat line: 11 of 13 for 121 passing yards and 42 rushing yards. That included a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter where he showed some nice moves on the QB keeper.
Mangum's worst play was taking a 17-yard sack in the third quarter after BYU had driven deep into SUU territory. It led to a missed field goal.
Ultimately, though, Mangum showed a strong arm and completed his final 11 passes, giving Cougar fans some hope for Mangum in the Ty Detmer offense.
"I'm obviously pleased with the win, but there's a lot to work on," Mangum said.
El-Bakri had a career day
Sophomore fullback El-Bakri is not normally a stat-stuffer. He's known for his skills as a blocker for a strong running game.
But against the T-Birds, El-Bakri had a big receiving game, catching four check-down passes for 69 yards, both career highs.
It's a good option for BYU going forward if El-Bakri can prove reliable in the pass-catching game.
"We ran the same stuff we always ran," El-Bakri said. "Today, the check down was a hot route to throw, so it was fun."
BYU defense, special teams keeps SUU pinned down much of the day
Other than one drive in the latter portion of the second quarter when Southern Utah scored its lone touchdown, BYU contained a T-Bird offense that featured weapons like running backs Malik Brown and Raysean Pringle, and wide receiver Mike Sharp.
The T-Birds finished with 165 total yards and seven first downs, while BYU held Brown to 25 rushing yards and a 3.1 per-carry average and Sharp to five receptions for 15 yards. Pringle had a good day, with 15 rushing yards and 63 receiving yards, including a 38-yarder that set up the SUU touchdown.
"We came out and flew around (to) the ball and made plays when we needed to," BYU linebacker Fred Warner said. "We did what we needed and we did what we were supposed to do, in my opinion."
Kurtz and Juergens helped make the passing game churn
It’s been a tough season for the BYU wide receivers, but two of them — seniors Nick Kurtz and Mitchell Juergens — were critical in the Cougars enjoying their best day through the air this season.
Kurtz finished with five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown — which came on a fourth-and-17 play — and showed the promise that had many thinking he could be the No. 1 receiving option for BYU this year.
Juergens, meanwhile, finished with a team-best six catches for 82 yards, including a diving 31-yard grab on the Cougars' first offensive play that got the BYU passing game off to a strong start.
The Cougars finished with 441 passing yards between Mangum and starting quarterback Taysom Hill, who threw for 320 yards. It was a welcome sign for a part of BYU's game that's seen its struggles this season.
With Canada ailing, Hall shines
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said sophomore running back Squally Canada, who was expected to earn a lion's share of carries vs. the T-Birds, wasn't 100 percent against SUU, and it was evident as Canada rushed for 5 yards on six carries.
Midway through the second quarter, the ball was handed over to freshman running back KJ Hall, and he turned those valuable game-time reps into a memorable first performance.
Hall, the son of former BYU running back Kalin Hall, took his first carry for 6 yards. He finished the game with 12 carries for 59 yards and a 2-yard touchdown run, as well as three catches for 68 yards. That's a total of 127 all-purpose yards.
The performance give promise to the future of the Cougar rushing attack, once senior Jamaal Williams is gone.
"I was ready to do whatever was asked of me," Hall said. "I wasn't bugging coach or riding him, but I was obviously ready to go in if they needed me and do my job."