FACTS & FIGURES
Where: Provo, Utah
Colors: Blue, tan, gray and white
Record: 1-0 (8-5 last season; 1-4 all-time vs. Boise State)
Last game: Beat Nebraska 33-28 in Lincoln on Saturday
Bronco Mendenhall, 49, is in his 11th season as the Cougars’ head coach with a 91-39 record, leading BYU to a bowl game each year. A Utah native, he was the Cougars’ defensive coordinator in 2003 and 2004 before his promotion to head coach in 2005.
For the third time in the past four seasons, quarterback Taysom Hill has suffered a season-ending injury. The electric senior from Pocatello fractured his foot Saturday at Nebraska after racking up 340 total yards in three quarters. He missed the final seven games of 2012 with a knee injury and the last eight games of 2014 with a broken leg. In his place steps another Idahoan, Eagle grad Tanner Mangum, a true freshman. Mangum completed 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards and the game-winning touchdown in relief.
BYU has some of the biggest targets in the country, with three of the top four wide receivers 6-foot-5 or 6-6. Junior Nick Kurtz, in his first full game with the Cougars, had five catches for 123 yards against Nebraska. Running backs combined for 11 carries and 27 yards in the opener. Last season’s top rusher, Jamaal Williams, will not play this season because of team rules violations. Four of the five offensive linemen who started the opener had at least five starts last season, and the other played in all 13 games.
The Cougars’ three-man front was honed when Mendenhall worked under Rocky Long at New Mexico and has been a staple at BYU. It is anchored by massive senior defensive end Bronson Kaufusi (6-foot-8, 280 pounds). Kaufusi had 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season playing outside linebacker. He had a sack in the opener against Nebraska, while nose tackle Logan Taele had 2.5 tackles for loss, including a sack.
Inside linebacker Manoa Pikula was the team’s top returning tackler, and had the most (seven) against the Huskers. Fellow inside backer Harvey Langi, an ever-rare transfer from rival Utah, had a sack, while outside linebacker Fred Warner had an interception return for a TD against Boise State last year. A rebuilt secondary yielded 319 yards in the opener, but junior safety Kai Nacua, perhaps the unit’s leader, will play Saturday after being suspended in the fallout of the Miami Beach Bowl brawl in December.
Senior kicker Trevor Samson was 12-of-14 on field goals last season and hit both attempts at Nebraska, adding three extra points. Junior punter Jonny Linehan averaged 51.0 yards per punt on five attempts, including a 77-yarder, in his first American football game. He was a New Zealand rugby player before coming to BYU this year. Senior Adam Hine had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last season against Virginia.
DID YOU KNOW?
BYU had two live cougar cubs as mascots from 1924 until 1929, when they broke out of their on-campus cage, killed two dogs and stalked livestock on nearby farms before being captured.