Cougars remain hopeful after shutout in the Big House

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Mark A. Philbrick/BYU
Junior wide receiver Colby Pearson reaches for a pass from Tanner Mangum. The Cougars lost to Michigan 31-0 in the Big House on Sept. 26. (Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo)

The Cougars’ seemingly lucky success finally caught up with them on Saturday when they were shutout in the Big House. This was only the third time the Cougars have not been able to score in a game since 1975.

The Michigan Wolverines were clearly the best team the Cougars have faced in their difficult September schedule, with the game ending with a final score of 31-0.

Tanner Mangum finally gave fans a reality check of his freshman quarterback status after a streak of three impressive games. His inexperience got the best of him and he was 12-28 for 55 passing yards. He was previously touted for his mature composure under pressure with many even deeming his “magic” plays as NFL quality and Heisman worthy.

The Cougar defense was able to come back in the second half and prevent the Wolverines from any additional scoring, but at that point it wasn’t enough to salvage the game or get any points on the board. Coach Mendenhall was proud of the defense for their improvements throughout the game, although the Wolverine’s brute force and physicality proved to be too much for the Cougars to handle.

“They outmanned us, outplayed us, outperformed us,” Mangum said at the media day following the loss. “They just, you know, took it to us.”

The BYU football team shocked the nation this season with its early success despite heavy setbacks and strong opponents. All its success without quarterback Taysom Hill would have been an impossible thought prior to the season. However, fans have held onto the hope that Mangum Magic would save the team.

The defense also demonstrated some star quality early on in the season with players like Kai Nacua making power plays. These players certainly grabbed the media’s attention and captivated college football fans everywhere.

Cougar Nation has been on a high as the team opened the season with last-minute wins against both Nebraska and Boise State. Even the game against highly ranked UCLA proved to be a nail-biter as the Cougars held the lead for most of the game and then lost by a single point. BYU even remained ranked in the AP top 25 for several weeks.

After an emotionally charged month of close wins and tough losses, the team and coaching staff still remain hopeful for the remainder of the season and view this as an opportunity to rally.

“A game like this is sometimes necessary — I hate that,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “But maybe we’ll get a little bit deeper into this particular team now that the other stuff is gone and they’ll play for each other and we can kind of recapture a different direction in how we play for the upcoming week.”

Mendenhall takes his team week-by-week and day-by-day as he teaches the players to remain level-headed throughout the roller coaster of success and loss. The Cougars will be viewing the upcoming month as a fresh start after a series of tough road games against physical teams.

“This is a restart without all the TV now, without all the accolades, and just now a core team redefining itself, learning to come together, and having to shape and remold and begin a new season is the way that I see it,” Mendenhall said.

The team got right to work on Monday morning after returning from Ann Arbor watching film and evaluating improvements to be made. The team is focusing on the opportunities to grow rather than dwelling on the loss and still expect to have a successful season.

“We had a lot of regret about some of the assignment errors that we missed but there there was a lot of ‘let’s go, let’s not let this define us,’ so in the end like the day ended this morning in a positive way and let’s let that be the chip on our shoulder and go out the rest of the season winning,” defensive back Micah Hannemann said.

The team now looks forward to four straight home games in October starting with Connecticut on Oct. 2.

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