PROVO, Utah – Facing another deficit, Tanner Mangum led the offense to three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and BYU's defense put the clamps down to come back and defeat Cincinnati 38-24 on Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
After a rough first half of offense, BYU (5-2) finished the game with 449 total yards to Cincinnati’s (3-3, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) 341 yards. Led by Bronson Kaufusi’s three sacks, the Cougar defense had eight sacks in the game for the first time since 1997 as it stymied the Bearcat offense over the final three quarters. The defense also had 12 tackles for loss.
“It was really a gratifying win today," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "You might question it after one come-from-behind win, or two or three, but it just seems like our team comes alive in the fourth quarter and plays hard and wants to win. I’ve just been amazed and impressed by how they’ve played in the fourth quarter.”
Mangum ended the game throwing 19 of 32 for two touchdowns and one interception. Nick Kurtz led the BYU receivers with 119 yards and two touchdowns on six catches. The running backs split up the load with Algernon Brown running for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Freshman Francis Bernard scored one touchdown and rushed for 60 yards on just four carries.
BYU was unable to connect on offense in the first quarter, allowing Cincinnati to jump out to an early 10-0 lead. Kaufusi came up big with a blocked field goal attempt at the start of the second quarter to set up the offense, but despite a 38-yard reception from Mitch Mathews, the Cougars settled for a 29-yard field goal by Trevor Samson to make it 10-3 with 13:29 until the half.
An interception on the BYU 20-yard line put Cincinnati in a position to score. The defense almost held on with the stop on third down, but a holding penalty gave the Bearcats the first down. Mike Boone rushed five yards to score with 6:50 until the break to push their lead to 17-3.
Two pass interference penalties aided BYU in answering with a scoring drive. The first penalty came early in the drive, setting up big plays from Brown and Kurtz to get the Cougars into scoring position. When faced with a potential fourth down, another pass interference call put the team at first and goal. Brown rushed five yards to score BYU’s first touchdown of the game, making it 17-10 with 4:30 left in the half.
Out of the locker room, BYU’s offense marched down the field to start the third quarter. On fourth and five, Mangum found Colby Pearson for a 16-yard gain to continue the drive. With 9:31 left in the quarter, Kurtz caught his first touchdown of his BYU career on a 19-yard pass from Mangum to tie up the game at 17 apiece.
Penalties plagued the Cougars in the second half as well. A big first-down catch by Kurtz was negated after two separate penalties. The offense was forced to punt a few plays later. After a huge reception by Mathews, a chop block penalty was called, taking away that gain as well. BYU was once again forced to punt.
Cincinnati regained the lead, 24-17, toward the end of the third quarter, but the run game knotted the score again between the Cougars and Bearcats. Bernard ran for 40 yards with a defender on his hip to switch the field position. Then with 10:24 left in the game, Brown scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard carry to tie the score at 24-24.
After stout defense led by another sack from Kaufusi, BYU forced Cincinnati to punt again. Starting on the BYU 47-yard line, Mangum found a wide-open Kurtz for 53 yards and his second touchdown of the night. The Cougars took the lead 31-24 for the first time in the game with 8:14 remaining in the contest.
Bernard rushed 11 yards for his second-career touchdown with 4:35 left to extend the Cougars’ lead to 38-24. This was the third touchdown of the fourth quarter.
BYU looks to continue its winning streak against Wagner at home on Saturday Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. MDT. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and Sirius XM 143.