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BYU-SUU: 6 numbers to know about Saturday's game

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, carrying the American flag, prepares to lead the Cougars onto the field prior to their matchup with No. 14 Boise State at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, carrying the American flag, prepares to lead the Cougars onto the field prior to their matchup with No. 14 Boise State at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Brandon Judd, Deseret News

PROVO — With 75 percent of the season now complete, BYU will return to the friendly confines of LaVell Edwards Stadium for the final three weeks of the regular season. After a good defensive performance against a struggling Cincinnati team, the Cougars will face in-state foe Southern Utah (Saturday, 1:00 p.m. MT, BYUtv/ESPN3).

Here are six numbers to keep an eye on during the game as the Cougars look to close out the season on a winning streak:


Per BYU, the Cougars have seven wins and zero losses to FCS teams over the past 10 seasons. During the same time, BYU is a perfect 16-0 in Provo during the month of November. While this is the first meeting in football between the Cougars and Thunderbirds, most expect BYU to get an eighth consecutive win vs. FCS competition pretty easily. Current Cougar assistant coach Ed Lamb was the head man in Cedar City from 2008-2015 and attracted a lot of talent to the program. The Big Sky School would love to get a statement win against a bigger program and will give the Cougars their best effort in the upset bid.


The Thunderbird offense has statistically been ranked near the top 1/3 of FCS teams all season, and have been successful in a balanced offense. But, one of the strengths of the offense has been the rushing attack by two seniors. Malik Brown (142 rushes for 839 yards and 5 TDs; No. 20 in FCS rushing yards) has been the work horse, while Raysean Pringle (58 rushes, 381 yards, 6 TDs) has provided a scoring threat for the offense in relief of Brown. Combined, these two backs are averaging 6.15 yards per carry and could cause problems for a Cougar defensive line already missing multiple starters due to injury.


Both teams have proven to be excellent at forcing turnovers this season. The Cougar defense has forced 22 turnovers (No. 3 in FBS), while the Thunderbirds have forced 20 turnovers (No. 17 in FCS). Both teams have lost exactly eleven turnovers. This puts BYU at +11 in turnover margin (No. 4) and Southern Utah at plus-9 (No. 12). BYU will need to avoid sloppy mistakes in this game. Otherwise, the Thunderbirds will have a chance to keep it close.


To go with their lofty ranking in turnovers gained as well as turnover margin is the fact that four different Thunderbird players have accounted for at least two interceptions or more. Three juniors led the way for the Southern Utah defense: Tyler Collett has four interceptions this season, with Mitch Dalley and Mike Needham adding three apiece. Senior Josh Thornton has also been credited with two interceptions.

BYU’s defense is similar in this way as well, with four players having two or more picks. Leading the way is Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist Kai Nacua (with five total INTs this season, good for No. 2 in the country). Dayan Lake, Francis Bernard and Fred Warner all have two takeaways, while Micah Hannemann, Austin McChesney, Butch Pau’u and Michael Davis have one each. There’s a very good chance that one or more of these defensive playmakers will add to their season totals this weekend.


Even with the bright spots on defense, the Thunderbirds have struggled at times to get their opponent’s offense off the field. After nine games, Southern Utah ranks in the bottom 15 percent of all FCS teams in total defense (No. 107 out of 122 FCS teams). So far, the Thunderbirds have given up 452.7 yards per game (5.90 yards/play) and 34 touchdowns. Their pass defense is dragging their averages down, as they have given up 2,586 total passing yards (287.3 per game), 13.40 yards per completion and 23 passing touchdowns, ranking them No. 116 overall.

The run defense is a bright spot, with an average of 165.3 yards per game on the ground and only eleven touchdowns (ranking that unit an average No. 62). If these trends hold throughout the game in Provo, the Cougar offense should be able to accumulate a lot of yardage against the Thunderbird defense.


This game will most likely be the first chance this season that sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum has the opportunity to get meaningful minutes running the offense in preparation for next season. Offensive Coordinator Ty Detmer said that he hoped to do exactly that during a weekly radio show (Coordinators Corner with Greg Wrubell) earlier this week.

This isn’t a knock on Taysom Hill, who surpassed 9,000 total offensive yards during his Cougar career this past week at Cincinnati (one of only five BYU quarterbacks to achieve that benchmark); the remaining schedule should allow many back-ups in addition to Mangum to get time on the field. This will give Cougar fans a look into the future as these younger players hopefully get significant minutes to end the season.

Landon Walters studied history and political science at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. Email: