Sometimes a defense has to get ready for two potential starters at quarterback. But this week, the Boise State football team has its eye on three of them, and five potentially could play for BYU on Friday night in Provo, Utah.
BYU has played a trio of passers the first five games of this season, starting junior Tanner Mangum (an Eagle High product) before he was injured late in the Cougars’ third game.
Sophomore Beau Hoge, son of former Idaho State great Merrill Hoge, started the last two, but he was hurt Friday in the second quarter of a loss to Utah State. He was replaced by sophomore walk-on Koy Detmer Jr., nephew of offensive coordinator Ty Detmer and son of the former Colorado and NFL quarterback.
“There’s film on all three at least,” Boise State sophomore safety Kekoa Nawahine said. “… We know they all can run, they all like to move and try to extend plays, so we’ll be ready for whoever it is.”
Adding to the unknown factor for Boise State is that there are two possible new entrants into the competition with true freshmen Joe Critchlow and Kody Wilstead. Coach Kalani Sitake said Monday: “We’re still looking, possibly, at using (them). You just hate to take them out of their redshirt year.”
Mangum has an ankle injury that has forced him to use a scooter to get around, and he was not suited up against Utah State. Hoge has an undisclosed injury, so the status for both is uncertain.
“I don’t talk about our injuries too often, but there is still the chance that Tanner and Beau could play this week. That is still up in the air,” Sitake said.
On Tuesday, Ty Detmer told The Deseret News, “It’s kind of all hands on deck after we see where Tanner’s at and where Beau’s at.” Detmer even mentioned Austin Kafentzis, a well-traveled former quarterback now listed as a running back, who has taken some Wildcat snaps.
Instability has no doubt hurt an already-struggling offense. Mangum has thrown for 466 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions, Hoge has thrown for 206 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions and Detmer was 7-of-20 for 91 yards with three interceptions. Combined, they’ve completed 51.8 percent of their passes.
“Injuries, stuff like that, this time of year, everyone has to deal with that stuff, but they have good players, good backups, especially for the schemes they want to do,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.
The Broncos will prepare for a system that uses plenty of zone-read elements, and it worked well against Utah State when the passing game struggled. The Cougars rushed for a season-high 210 yards against the Aggies, led by freshman Ula Tolutau’s 102 yards.
But if BYU wants to find a way to succeed against Boise State’s defense, it will need to replicate what Virginia did on Sept. 22, and that’s find some balance. That starts with more efficient passes and fewer risky throws.
Whether it’s Mangum, or Hoge, or Detmer, or Critchlow, or Wilstead.
“We still expect our guys to be better than what (Detmer) did on Friday night,” Sitake said.
BYU at a glance
Location: Provo, Utah
Head coach: Kalani Sitake (10-8, second year)
This year: 1-4; lost 40-24 at Utah State on Friday
The Cougars have struggled on offense, regardless of which quarterback has been in the game. BYU is 128th in scoring (12.6 points per game) and 125th in total offense (256.6 yards per game). The three quarterbacks who have seen action have combined for 10 interceptions, most in the nation. Freshman running back Ula Tolutau leads with 188 rushing yards and junior Squally Canada (a former BSU commit) has 187. The Cougars trot out some tall targets, including top receiver Talon Shumway (6-foot-3).
Defensively, BYU has been solid, allowing 26.4 ppg (72nd) with 381.6 ypg (70th). The Cougars run a versatile 4-3 scheme similar to Boise State, with a STUD end in Sione Takitaki (six tackles for loss, two sacks). As usual, they have some size on the line with starting defensive end Corbin Kaufusi (6-9, 285), wonderfully named nose tackle Handsome Tanielu (6-2, 310) and tackle Kesni Tausinga (6-1, 300). The pass defense, which struggled last year, has improved, and the Cougars’ linebackers are a strength.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Fred Warner, LB: Prior to last season’s game against BYU, Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said Warner was one of the best linebackers he’s faced. Then Warner went out and showed why, with seven tackles, a forced fumble and a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown. This season, the 6-4, 230-pound senior leads the team with 41 tackles (six for loss), plus a sack and a fumble recovery.
“I’m always going to try every single day to get better and better. I don’t want to be complacent,” Warner said. “I want to be that game-changer. I’d love to get another pick like that this week.”