Happy Hump Day, as the UCLA Bruins football team prepares for its final (and toughest) nonconference game of the season against the Brigham Young University Cougars. The game will kick off on Saturday, September 19th, at 7:30 p.m., PT at the Rose Bowl. In order to get up to speed on what we can expect from BYU when they have the ball, here is Bruins Nation’s preview of the Cougar offense.
2015 Offensive Statistics
BYU ranks #55 in total offense (out of 127 teams), averaging 446 yards per game, and 6.37 yards per play. In comparison, UCLA is #20 in total offense, averaging 514.5 yards per game, and 6.09 yards per play.
Digging deeper into the numbers, it is clear that even with the loss of Taysom Hill for the season, BYU is still a passing team. The Cougars are #15 in the nation in passing, completing 45 of 75 passes, for 688 yards (344 yards per game), four touchdowns and two interceptions. In comparison, UCLA is #23 in the nation, completing 52 of 88 passes, for 604 yards (302 yards per game), four touchdowns and three interceptions (two of which were by Jerry Neuheisel in garbage time against UNLV).
Conversely, BYU’s rushing statistics are toward the bottom of FBS. The Cougars are ranked #113 in rushing, with 204 yards on 65 attempts, an average of 3.14 yards per rush. UCLA, by comparison, is #54 in rushing, with 425 yards on 81 attempts, an average of 5.20 yards per rush.
So, it is non unreasonable to expect that the Bruin defense will see a lot of Tanner Mangum throwing the ball on Saturday. Speaking of Mangum . . .
Although BYU has lost senior Taysom Hill for the season, Tanner Mangum, a 6’3" 210 lb. true freshman, has come on to impress, drawing comparisons to Johnny Manziel (the college version not the NFL version). In fact, although UCLA true freshman Josh Rosen got a little Heisman hype after his performance against Virginia, most of the hype after week two went to Mangum, with college football pundits Dennis Dodd and Stewart Mandel both listing Mangum as a Heisman candidate. Mangum has completed 24 passes on 39 attempts (a 61.5% completion percentage), for 420 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Mangum can throw well while on the run. Mangum’s quarterback rating is 167.1, compared to Josh Rosen’s 142.1 rating. And Mangum has done it against better competition, the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Boise State Broncos. Looking beyond the statistics, Mangum completed a Hail Mary pass to Mitch Mathews as time expired to lead BYU to victory over Nebraska in week one, 33-28. You can see that play, as well as other Tanner magnum highlights from the Nebraska game, here:
If you watch the play at 2:25 of the video, the one immediately before the Hail Mary, you can see why Mangum is being compared to Manziel, at least from a scrambling standpoint.
Last week, Mangum completed a 35 yard touchdown pass on 4th and 7 with 45 seconds remaining to propel the Cougars to victory over Boise State. Mangum scrambled to his right and heaved what was essentially another Hail Mary, this time to Mitchell Juergens. You can see that play here:
The Bruins will face the best quarterback they have seen all season this Saturday, although he is a true freshman.
Magnum has a stable of quality players on the receiving end of his passes, led by junior Mitchell Juergens, who has eight catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns on the season, including the Hail Mary against Boise State. Senior Mitch Mathews, listed at 6’6", 215 lbs., had a big year last season, with 922 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. This year he has eight grabs for 101 yards and two touchdowns (both against Nebraska, including the Hail Mary). Senior Devon Blackmon has 11 catches for 148 yards and junior Nick Kurtz, listed at 6’5", has caught five balls for 123 yards, all of which were recorded in the Boise State game. With Mangum playing well in relief of Hall, and BYU having four receivers with over 100 yards receiving after two games, the Bruin defense, and more particularly the Bruin secondary will face its toughest test of the season this Saturday.
BYU has five tight ends on its roster: one freshman, three sophomores, and one junior. None of these players have ever caught a pass in their college careers, let alone this season. Suffice to say, BYU utilizes the tight end as a blocker. UCLA should be wary, however, as BYU might introduce the tight end as a new wrinkle for which UCLA could be unprepared.
BYU has gotten decent production out of senior running back Adam Hine, who has 130 yards on 23 carries with one touchdown. His primary backup, junior Algernon Brown, is a significant drop-off, as he is only carried the ball eight times for 23 yards and no touchdowns on the season. Frankly, the loss of Taysom Hill has hurt BYU in the running game, as Hill had nine carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns before being injured against Nebraska.
BYU’s offensive line is big and physical. This will be the biggest challenge for UCLA’s front seven so far this season, and may expose the hole left by the season-ending injury to Eddie Vanderdoes. The line is anchored by sophomore center Tejan Koroma, listed at 6’0" 290 lbs. Koroma is by far the smallest starter on BYU’s offensive line, which is not uncommon for the center position. He has a reputation having a little "nastiness" to his game. On the left side, BYU will start junior Kyle Johnson at guard, who is listed at 6’4" 303 lbs. At left tackle, protecting Mangum’s blindside is senior Ryker Mathews, the most experienced offensive lineman for BYU. Matthews is listed at 6’6" 322 lbs. A couple of sophomores start on the right side of BYU’s offense of line. Tuni Kanuch, listed at 6’3" 330 lbs., should get the nod at right guard. Uliu Lapuato (who played left tackle last season) should slot in at right tackle. Lapuato is the guy who punched the Boise State player in the, ahem, crotch region last weekend, and should probably have been suspended for this game. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall, however, channeled Pete Carroll and his progeny and instead saw fit to impose "internal discipline" against Lapuato for his punch. In case you missed it, here is the video of Lapuato’s punch:
Strategy and Analysis:
Although BYU’s running back situation appears to be similar to that of Virginia and UNLV (i.e., not great), UCLA will face a much better quarterback, a much better receiving corps, and a much better offensive line than it did in the first two weeks of the season. Nevertheless, although BYU won both of its first games, it had to do so in extraordinary fashion, scoring both times in the final minute for the winning score.
Hopefully Coach Tom Bradley will install a game plan to not only shut down the BYU passing game but also contain a running game that has yet to make its mark on the season. UCLA’s secondary will need to live up to its billing this week, and the defensive front seven will need to put pressure on Mangum, hoping to force freshman mistakes. Although Mangum is off to a great start, as a true freshman, his season will not be without bumps in the road. Hopefully the Bruin defense will be a significant bump for Mangum and the Cougars, and they will not be in a position late in the fourth quarter where they have a third straight opportunity to make a heroic comeback.
That’s a wrap for the Bruins Nation preview of BYU’s offense. Let us know your thought in the comment section below and check back tomorrow for a preview of BYU’s defense.