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Unpacking 4 observations from BYU's win over Nebraska

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Nate Slack's first BYU football game in two years was one for the ages. The recently returned missionary decompresses with his observations here.

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It was nice to finally have a weekend filled with college football action, and feels like it has been a really long time since I have been able to enjoy one. I came away with a few big takeaways from a game that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Tanner Mangum

Tanner Mangum is the real deal. I saw Mangum on a daily basis for about four weeks as we were in the Mexico City MTC together. I remember looking at him with all the other missionaries and thinking he was a monster. There were a few comments I read over the weekend about how he is undersized, but I believe that is only the case when he is compared to Taysom Hill. Mangum is listed at 6’3 210 lbs. and showed great patience and poise in the pocket during the game.

He went 7-of-11 passing for 111 yards. The almost-sack he was able to avoid as he passed it downfield to Nick Kurtz on the 4th & 3 late in the game showed great athleticism and awareness. He again showed it as he turned a broken play into a much needed first down run on the Cougars' final drive. Yes, we are now without Taysom Hill, but Tanner Mangum stepped up when he was called on.

Offensive Line

The offensive line created a beautiful pocket for a large part of the game. Three months ago, the senior writer for the Big 10 conference, Tom Dienhart, predicted that Nebraska would have the strongest defensive line in the Big 10 West this season, beating out Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Illinois to earn the that title. Many people had their worries about how Hill would be protected and how the line would perform against the big D linemen of Nebraska, but they responded well and allowed the quarterbacks to pass for almost 400 yards. Hill and Mangum had plenty of time to look thtrough their options and find the open guy, which became crucial as BYU did not have a lot of success running the football.

Anemic run game

BYU only carried the ball for 132 yards which doesn’t sound like that bad of a game until you take away the 98 yards from the quarterbacks on 13 tries, leaving only 23 yards from the rest of the team. Hine carried the ball 4 times for 37 yards with a long of 20 yards while Mitch Juergens, Algie Brown, and Nate Carter combined for a grand total of 8 carries for negative 3 yards. In order for Tanner Mangum to really have success, BYU will need to find answers to the running problems they faced all game Saturday. Fall camp standout Francis Bernard suffered a broken finger he had surgically repaired early last week but is expected to play vs UCLA in a couple of weeks. But even with Bernard, will BYU be able to develop a solid run game?

Travis Tuiloma

Lastly, lost in all the news of Taysom Hill, BYU may have possibly taken an even bigger loss with nose tackle Travis Tuiloma suffering a knee injury in the second quarter that will keep him out for 4-6 weeks. BYU gave up 180 total yards in the first half before the Tuiloma injury, and 260 in the second. The biggest difference was the amount of pressure put on Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr.

Through the course of the second half, the Cougars began to put more and more pressure on the quarterback, forcing bad throws and getting a few big stops on third and short. It took a 42-yard Hail Mary pass to take down the favored Cornhuskers on the road and overcome the 14 point loss in the third quarter, but it happened.

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Overall, it was an impressive outing for the Cougars. Anytime you beat a big name opponent like Nebraska on opening weekend in their own stadium without your starting quarterback, running back, nose tackle, safety, and linebacker -- it’s always a good sign. After seeing several disappointments from teams like Stanford, Arizona State, and even TCU and Auburn who had close games, BYU fans should be excited and optimistic for what lies in the upcoming weeks, especially with big games vs Boise State, UCLA, and Michigan to close out the opening month of this 2015 season.

A win Saturday would launch BYU into the top 25 heading into the Rose Bowl, and if BYU can escape with even a 3-1 start, the entire country will have their eyes on BYU as the team heads back to Provo with all the momentum in the world.