It was ugly. At times, it was uninspiring.
But in the end, BYU walked out of LaVell Edwards Stadium with a three-score victory, defeating the UConn Huskies 30-13 Friday night.
While BYU turnovers kept the game close throughout, it was Connecticut's first turnover of the game that proved the most costly. With the Cougars leading only 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, Bryant Shirreffs was blitzed by Kai Nacua, who leveled a hit as Shirreffs tried to throw. Bronson Kaufusi easily intercepted the floater, setting up the Cougars with a short field.
Tanner Mangum delivered a strike to Mitch Mathews on the next play, a 21-yard score to give BYU a 20-10 lead and was the beginning to BYU finally putting the game away.
After UConn kicked a field goal, Mangum connected with Mathews again for 6-yard scoring pass, giving BYU a 27-13 lead with seven minutes left.
BYU racked up more than 300 yards of offense in the first half, which saw the return of Algernon Brown to the backfield. Brown piled up 95 yards on 18 carries, supplemented by a lively Francis Bernard who added 69 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Bernard filled in well for an injured Adam Hine, who is likely out for three more weeks with a hurt ankle.
Brown and Bernard combined for an impressive average of 5.7 yards per carry on the night. Riley Burt, the true freshman from Brigham City near the top of Utah, also got his first career carry. Burt picked up a first down with a 5-yard rush in the first quarter.
Despite moving the ball at will, BYU was undone by turnovers in the first half.
The Cougars' first drive went to the UConn 32 and ended on a Bernard fumble. After an 87-yard TD drive to take a 7-0 lead, Trevor Samson missed a 48-yard field goal.
Another first-half drive went to UConn's 37 but ended when Mangum threw an interception into the endzone. Samson had a field goal blocked to end the half, which saw the teams tied 7-7.
The first half began with Mangum throwing his second interception. Jamar Summers jumped a long out route and was off to the races -- and to Mangum's credit, the freshman QB chased Summers down and rode him out of bounds at the BYU 37.
That effort from Mangum to start the third quarter was key, as BYU's defense held UConn to 16 yards on eight plays. The Huskies had to settle for a field goal, and took a 10-7 lead.
BYU answered with two field goal drives to take a 13-10 lead, setting up the Kaufusi interception and the door-slamming touchdowns by Mathews.
Mangum finished 35-of-53 for 365 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. While the interceptions both came in UConn territory, Mangum still showed his usual signs of patience and arm strength in moving the offense along.
While Mathews caught two touchdowns, Terenn Houk was the top yard-gaining receiver. Houk totaled 129 yards on six catches, while Mitchell Juergens hauled in a total of 10 passes.
Overall, it was a weird game that BYU controlled but failed to put away until late. BYU won the total yards battle 539-230 -- yes, by THREE HUNDRED YARDS. The Cougars punted only once in 12 possessions, while UConn had zero redzone drives.
It never felt like BYU would lose, but it wasn't clear how close they'd let it be. In the end, however, BYU put its foot down on the scoreboard -- even though all other facets indicated a more complete blowout.
With a thin running back corp, Harvey Langi out with an injury (and Sione Takitaki missing 3/4 of the game after being ejected for targeting), and after a grueling September schedule, it was the kind of game where you just wanted BYU to win and get it over with.
In the end, that's what the Cougars did. Now they get an extra day to heal up in preparation for East Carolina. The Pirates come to Provo on Saturday, Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m. MT in a game that will air on ESPNU.