We may not ever get over that loss in Pasadena.
As fate would have it, BYU won a couple games it might not have had business winning (in some ways), and then lost a game it led for 57 minutes. That's football, I guess.
Still, despite the rough ending, we learned a lot of good things about BYU that bode well for the remainder of the season.
Tanner Mangum is really good (and tough as nails)
Saturday saw Mangum have to play a completely different game than we saw against Boise. UCLA did what it could to take away the deep ball, and Mangum had to work the middle of the field and shorter routes to the outside.
I'm not one to prematurely lead a hype train, so don't take this too far, but Mangum made NFL-looking throws all night. He hit several outside receivers for quick slants. He fired the ball through a crowd to hit Mitch Mathews across the middle, through a window of defensive lineman and linebacker arms that barely existed.
Then, BYU's final touchdown of the game came when Mangum made several reads and finally saw Mathews come open across the field. Knowing he had no time to do otherwise, Mangum threw off his back foot and hit Mathews in the corner of the endzone from the opposite hash marks. Not only was it an amazing throw, but it wasn't entirely noticeable because he made it with such ease.
Mangum has also spent quite a bit of time getting hit, whether before or after throws, and seems mostly unaffected by it. I'm sure he feels it, but you can't tell. The kid comes to play.
Adam Hine can be a feature back
Many had our doubts, but Hine also came to play at UCLA. Rushing for 149 yards on 23 carries, Hine kept UCLA honest and allowed Mangum the ability to make the throws needed. That's 6.5 yards per carry. There are still questions about his ability to convert 3rd & shorts, which is why BYU coaches gave Harvey Langi the opportunity to convert two of them (he was 2/2), but overall, Hine is much improved as a running back.
I know he can't get every single carry, it wouldn't be wise for his health and endurance -- especially with how he wore down Boise in the fourth quarter, he needs life in his legs late -- but man, Hine should get as many carries as possible.
Harvey Langi is a game changer
Langi has been a menace to quarterbacks the last two games. For Ryan Finley of Boise, it was in the form of sacks as Langi started to live in the Bronco backfield.
Against UCLA, Langi gave Josh Rosen fits in pass coverage by intercepting two passes. One saw Langi drop back into a zone. Rosen tried to throw the ball over that zone, but Langi rose up and picked it off quite easily. The second was even more impressive: Langi had man coverage on a receiver, met the player right as the ball arrived, batted the ball in the air, then won a jump-ball battle for the pick.
None of that accounts for the two manly rushing conversions Langi had on offense. On the second, UCLA defenders started celebrating a little as Langi was met with a horde of Bruin tacklers -- but Langi drove the pile forward on one final push and picked up the first down.
Langi is quickly living up to the hype.
Kai Nacua is an elite ball-hawking safety
We figured BYU's pass defense would improve when Nacua returned from his suspension in the season opener, but like this? Nacua changes the game completely. The junior safety leads the nation in interceptions with four, and dropped an easy one against UCLA that could have been his fifth. (I don't fault the kid, it happens.)
What he contributes to the pass D is, in part, what made UCLA abandon the pass almost entirely in the second half. And remember that leaping pass breakup against Boise State late? The kid is always around the football and is extremely fun to watch.
The defense misses Travis Tuiloma
So how did UCLA win if it abandoned the pass in the second half? That's the thorn in what was otherwise a very encouraging performance, despite the loss. The Bruins dialed up a hurry-up rush attack in the fourth quarter and BYU had no answer. As well as the defensive line has played without Tuiloma, they sure missed his presence in that setting.
So why is this in a list of "good" things we learned? Well:
@OchoZaco hopefully. I want to be 100 percent by then.— Travis Tuiloma (@travytee91) September 20, 2015
@phishcoug yup it usually is but I've been living in the training room so it may be earlier than that✊— Travis Tuiloma (@travytee91) September 20, 2015
@BostonCoug thankyou! I'll be smart with it don't worry— Travis Tuiloma (@travytee91) September 21, 2015