LINCOLN, Neb. – In miraculous fashion, freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum made his collegiate debut, connecting with receiver Mitch Mathews on a 42-yard Hail Mary touchdown as BYU stunned Nebraska 33-28 on the road at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
With the Cougars facing a 28-27 deficit on fourth down with one second left on the game clock, Mangum notched his first career touchdown on the Hail Mary to help the Cougars (1-0) to beat the Cornhuskers (0-1, 0-0 Big 10). It is the first time in 30 years that Nebraska has fallen in its season opener.
“Nebraska's to be praised,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “They played really hard right to the end, and so did we. Sometimes one play determines a game. I'm so happy for Mitch Mathews. Tanner Mangum is just a few months off of his mission and being able to come in and help our team win. I'm just proud of the resiliency of our team in an opening game on a big stage in a historic stadium and finding a way to pull it out.”
With 48 seconds to go and no timeouts, the BYU offense took over at the 24-yard line after Nebraska missed a 41-yarder.
On second down and 10, Mangum converted an 11-yard run for a first down prior to Adam Hine’s 16-yard rush up the middle. Two plays later another Mangum run pushed the Cougars to the 42-yard line, setting the stage for the eventual last-second pass.Prior to leaving the game with an injury, senior quarterback Taysom Hill had 268 yards through the air on 21-of-34 passing with one touchdown in addition to 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Mangum completed 7 for 11 for 111 yards along with five rushes for 26 yards.
“Taysom Hill is lost for the season,” Mendenhall said. “He allowed us to stay within striking distance. There's no player or person that I've coached that I care about more than Taysom. So it's bittersweet.”
Junior receiver Nick Kurtz led all receivers with 123 yards on five catches in his first career BYU game. Mathews had 69 yards on three receptions in addition to the Hail Mary score. Hine added 37 yards rushing on four carries for the offense.
Defensively, the Cougars had seven tackles for loss, three sacks four quarterback hurries and two turnovers, forcing an interception and fumble recovery. Senior linebacker Manoa Pikula led BYU with seven tackles while a host of Cougars chipped in on the defensive effort. Defensive lineman Logan Taele had six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
After Nebraska scored a touchdown on its first drive and a punt on its next possession, Hill led the Cougars downfield on a four-play, 99-yard scoring drive. He delivered two consecutive first-down completions with a 24-yarder to Terenn Houk followed by a 53-yard completion for Kurtz’s first catch of his career.
A pass interference call advanced the offense to the 3-yard line before Hill capped the drive with his 23rd rushing touchdown of his career, tying the game 7-7 with 2:50 left in the quarter.
The Cornhuskers responded with a 65-yard scoring drive, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown catch from Tommy Armstrong to Alonzo Moore to break the tie, 14-7, for the eventual tally at the end of the first.
In the second quarter BYU took the lead with a 17-point output.
On third and 10, Houk came down with a 19-yard diving fingertip catch for another first down. Two plays later, Hill ran 21 yards to the endzone, tying the game at 14 apiece with 13:13 left in the second quarter.
The next Cougar drive resulted in a field goal for Trevor Samson who converted on his first attempt from 41-yards away, helping BYU to take its first lead of the game, 17-14 with 5:42 left in the half.
The Cougar defense then forced a turnover as Fred Warner recovered a fumble at the Nebraska 22-yard line. Three plays later, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Mathews extended the lead to 24-14. The Huskers attempted a field goal from 44 yards out, but it missed wide left right before the end of the half.
In the third quarter, momentum swung back in the direction of Nebraska with touchdown the 10:39 mark to cut the margin to 24-21 in favor of the Cougars after a turnover. On the next Nebraska possession, the Huskers pushed their way down the field for an eight-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to take a 28-24 lead with 5:31 left in the third quarter.
After a three-and-out, BYU’s defense was tasked with holding Nebraska. On third and 10 yards to go from the Nebraska 49, defensive back Micah Hannemann notched his first career interception.
The Cougars stopped the Huskers' next drive and BYU cashed in for three points to make the score 28-27 after Samson’s second field goal attempt of the game was good from 35 yards with 7:51 left in the game.
After exchanging punts again, the Cornhuskers threatened to score on their next possession, but a tackle for loss from Fred Warner and Hannemann set up a 41-yard try for the Huskers. The miss gave the Cougars the ball back for the decisive possession.
BYU will look to its season opener next week as it hosts Boise State Saturday at 8:15 p.m. MDT at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN 2 and will be available on the Cougar IMG Sports Network along with KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM.