Only a few rows were empty at the top of the LaVell Edwards Stadium as fans cheered the BYU football team on to a 30-13 win against the University of Connecticut through bouts of heavy rain.
Many questioned which running back would carry the team after several games of accumulating injuries among key players. Algie Brown started after a few weeks of not playing due to an injury. He made a notable difference in the game as he ran the ball for 95 yards.
The surprising newcomer to the offense was freshman running back Francis Bernard who made his career start at the game. He ended the night with 71 yards rushing and one touchdown.
“I really liked what I saw in Francis Bernard tonight as he ran the football,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said following the game. “He’s a great addition to the rotation, considering the number of backs we’ve cycled through this year. We knew coming out of fall camp that he was a physical and talented player.”
The running backs weren’t the only ones who stepped up their game. BYU’s wide receivers also showed improvement following criticism after the loss at Michigan. Terenn Houk led the receivers with 129 yards. Mitch Mathews and Mitch Jurgens followed with 78 and 74 yards respectively, while Nick Kurtz had 52.
Freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum started to get into a rhythm late in the first quarter by making passes left and right. He had a streak of 12 consecutive completed passes. BYU completed their first scoring drive after 12 plays for 87 yards with 5:18 left on the clock in the first quarter. Mathews caught the ball at the 1-yard line and Bernard carried into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
The Cougars slowed in the second quarter as Mangum threw several incomplete passes and the running game struggled to carry the team to a first down.
It took the Huskies 26:47 to complete a pass. When they finally did, it was with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Arkeel Newsome. The Cougars answered with good progress down the field, but missed a field goal attempt.
The Cougars were a 17-point favorite going into the game, but were surprisingly tied 7-7 with the Huskies at halftime.
Both UConn and BYU scored field goals in the third quarter keeping the game at a tight race.
Kai Nacua brought the pressure and Bronson Kaufusi intercepted the ball early in the fourth quarter. BYU’s first play after regaining possession of the ball was a 21-yard touchdown pass from Mangum to Mathews. This gave the Cougars momentum to finish the game. Mangum and Mathews connected for yet another touchdown pass for 6 yards with 7:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Mangum set the record for freshman passing yards in a game with his final touchdown pass that brought his total to 365 yards. Matt Berry held the previous record with 360 yards in 2002 against Wyoming.
Michael Shelton then picked off UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs’ fourth and 20 attempt and Trevor Samson kicked a 32-yard field goal to end the night.