The legend of Tanner Mangum grows.
Saturday started with an 84-yard touchdown pass on the Eagle High graduate’s second attempt for BYU. It ended with another miracle play for the freshman quarterback.
Mangum hit Mitchell Juergens for a leaping 35-yard touchdown with 45 seconds left against No. 20 Boise State after scrambling out of the pocket on fourth-and-7 to give the Cougars a 28-24 lead. A late interception return added to it, giving BYU the comeback 35-24 victory.
With it came a possible haymaker for the Broncos’ New Years’ Six bowl hopes. It was the fourth straight season the Broncos lost their first game away from home.
“As the ball came down, I saw someone flash this way with a white jersey and come down with a touchdown,” Boise State cornerback Donte Deayon said of the final play.
A week earlier, Mangum completed a 42-yard Hail Mary as time expired to win at Nebraska. He led the Cougars to the win over his hometown team with another set of clutch plays. His 84-yard touchdown, which also went to Juergens, came on third-and-19, while a 70-yard pass that set up a third quarter touchdown came on another third-and-19.
Boise State (1-1) was undone by uncharacteristic penalties, turnovers and broken coverages at the worst possible times as their 10-game winning streak, second-longest in the nation, came to an end. The Broncos had 11 penalties to BYU’s five, were 2-of-12 on third downs, and were punished for broken plays on Mangum’s big passes. BYU got 231 of its 381 yards on four Mangum completions.
The Broncos led almost the entire second half, but breathing room was never quite there. BYU (2-0) scored the game’s last 21 points. Boise State twice picked up 10-point leads in the second half, only to see BYU respond with touchdown drives.
“We didn’t finish,” Boise State wide receiver Shane Williams Rhodes said. “We went out there and we shot ourselves in the foot. The game played out just like we played it — we didn’t finish.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley’s first touchdown of the season came with 2:03 left in the third quarter, thanks to some nifty moves from sophomore running back Jeremy McNichols on the 29-yard toss to make it 24-14.
However, BYU cut the lead to 24-21 when junior safety Kai Nacua intercepted Finley for the second time and returned it to the 12-yard line, setting up Mangum’s 1-yard touchdown sneak with 10:22 to play. The Broncos had a personal foul nullify a sack and had a pass interference flag in the end zone. Nacua intercepted Finley a third time and rumbled 50 yards for the touchdown on Boise State’s first play after the go-ahead touchdown to Juergens.
“I really liked the resiliency of Tanner Mangum,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I don’t know where you go from (the Hail Mary), but I was really proud of him.”
Finley finished 25-of-38 for 297 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, while Mangum was 17-of-28 for 309 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Boise State couldn’t put together any drives to salt the game away, getting outgained 106-12 in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos appeared to be capable of pulling away when McNichols scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 3:59 elapsed in the third quarter to give Boise State a 17-7 edge. The score was set up by tight end David Lucero’s 26-yard gain on his first career reception the previous play and an earlier roughing the passer penalty on a third-and-16. But the Cougars got a 21-yard touchdown run from Adam Hine fewer than 7 minutes later to make it 17-14, set up by Mangum’s 70-yard pass.
“It wasn’t the most ideal situation,” Mangum said. “I wish we would’ve been up, but you’ve just got to keep playing, keep fighting no matter what. And that’s what we did.”
Boise State tied it 7-7 in the first quarter, when McNichols bulled through the line and popped out past the goal line on a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:13 left in the frame. Deayon intercepted Mangum twice before the half — on a leaping grab on BYU’s second drive in front of 6-foot-6 receiver Nick Kurtz at the Broncos’ 7-yard line, then at midfield early in the second quarter he returned to the Cougars’ 17. A penalty pushed it back, and Boise State wound up punting.
Six consecutive Bronco drives got into BYU territory to end the first half, but only one of the last five resulted in points — a 31-yard Tyler Rausa field goal as the second quarter ended that made it 10-7, the Broncos’ first lead of the game.
Junior punter Sean Wale and the Boise State special teams made it tough on Mangum and the BYU offense early on, pinning it inside its own 10 three times in the first half.
Boise State’s defense handled the rest, suffocating the BYU rushing attack, allowing just 3 yards on the Cougars’ first 25 rushes. But they picked up 69 yards on 14 attempts the rest of the way, including a 19-yard Hine run that got the Cougars into Boise State territory on the go-ahead drive.
“It was shocking,” McNichols said. “They threw pretty much a Hail Mary and caught it. It hurt, and we’ve got to go back and fix everything.”
Williams-Rhodes had a game-high 11 receptions, picking up 107 yards. Next, the Broncos will try to rebound Friday at Albertsons Stadium against Idaho State.