Going up against Arizona, California, Wisconsin, and Washington, Tanner Mangum will quarterback BYU into foreign historical territory.
No Cougar team has ever played two top-10 teams (Wisconsin, Washington) on the road in one season. The opportunity to play Power 5 opponents is as real of a challenge as it is unique.
And on the brink of all this, as BYU travels to Arizona for Saturday’s season opener, comes a figure tossed around on social media that Mangum is 0-7 against Power 5 opponents.
Boy, that sounds fatalistic, right?
Not so fast, says former Cougar and NFL quarterback John Beck. Now a professional throw coach in Southern California, Beck said that kind of statistic may be fool’s gold, a number as goofy as one may concoct.
Speaking to former teammates Ben Criddle and Jake Kuresa on ESPN 960 Radio, Beck declared Mangum’s performances can’t be that black and white.
First, in that figure, Mangum gets no credit for the miracle last-second win and touchdown throw to Mitch Mathews at Nebraska. He gets little credit for doing the same thing against the winningest program the past decade, Boise State, on a brilliant toss to Mitch Juergens. And he was one score away from Missouri on the road and Utah in a bowl game, as well as providing an admirable performance in the Rose Bowl against UCLA as a freshman.
Perspective, explains Beck. There is more to the story.
And he makes sense.
Beck remembers plenty of college games he quarterbacked wherein BYU’s offense moved the ball effectively but didn’t win. He points to a 500-yard offensive performance at Boston College against Matt Ryan’s Eagles the Cougars lost due to special teams play, three missed field goals. In that game, Beck was 38 of 59 (64 percent) for 436 yards and the offense gained 547, but they lost 30-23. Beck said he played in games against Mountain West teams that were tougher to move the ball against than some Power 5 opponents at times.
Beck remembers putting up 28 points against Cal in a bowl game — good enough for a win — and losing. Part of that was a last-second Cal TD just before the half ended. Nothing to do with BYU’s offense other than perhaps not being able to run out the clock before halftime.
“I don’t think the record against Power 5 teams is necessarily a good indicator of how a quarterback can be or will be against Power 5 teams,” said Beck. “If I recall right he played UCLA early in his career at the Rose Bowl and he had a really good half there where BYU’s offense moved the ball very well.
“The win and loss record isn’t necessarily a very good indicator of offensive performance against Power 5 teams. Who cares who they are playing, a quarterback can be efficient against a defense whether they are Power 5 or not. Now, if that turns into a win or not, that turns into more of a team thing.”
Beck’s prime example of that is his experience losing to a talented TCU team in overtime at Provo his senior year.
After that game during media interviews, he was asked by a reporter why the BYU offense had such a hard time winning at the end of games. It struck a cord inside Beck.
He thought to himself, “Hey, wait a second. We put up 50 points on TCU and on the first play of overtime we threw a touchdown pass but somehow walked off the field and lost. TCU scored on every possession of the second half and with like 35 seconds left, we had to come up with a drive and kick a field goal to send it into overtime. On the very first play in overtime, we scored a touchdown.
“I remember thinking at the time, yes, we did lose the game but from an offensive standpoint, I felt like we did everything we could to win the game.
“In my years of playing college and NFL football, I’ve seen winning performances by quarterbacks and offenses that were good enough but they lost the game, and I’ve seen subpar, mediocre should-have-lost performances by a quarterback and they won the game.”
According to Cougarstats.com, from 2001 to 2018, no other team in the nation has opened the season more often against Power 5 teams than BYU (14). BYU also has the most wins against Power 5 teams in openers during that span (10).
The Cougars only get to that point by reaching up and taking the opportunities and they've done that often as an independent.
Beck called it a “funny” little thing, these questions about winning performances, losing performances and exactly what quarterbacks did or did not do in each situation and how people come up with a figure like how one stands 0-7 against Power 5 competition.
But that’s the microscope under which a BYU QB finds himself each fall.
If BYU wins at Arizona, Mangum will no doubt receive a lot of credit. But if BYU loses, which many experts predict will be the case, how easy is it to say it is simply on him?
I like Beck’s perspective.