PROVO — Much of the focus stemming from BYU's 33-28 win over Nebraska has focused around quarterback Tanner Mangum, and how he'll fill in for injured starter Taysom Hill moving forward. The freshman signal caller did fill in admirably during Saturday's win, giving promise of how the offense will adjust and perform with him at the helm.
But what about the other offensive parts? How did they fare against the Huskers and how will they work to enhance the play of their new signal caller?
Cougar offensive coordinator Robert Anae answered those questions on Wednesday, first addressing an offensive line that provided encouraging play.
“Our group up front is getting better,” Anae said. “We’ve made incremental steps over the years and we have started in a much better place than we were a year ago, so that’s strength in conditioning and a group taking to heart the challenges and coaching I’m proud to see them grow.”
Mixed in with the solid play provided by Anae's front against Nebraska was a lack of motion and holding penalties, a big improvement over several of last year's games.
“Coach (Garett) Tujague was real happy with no false starts,” said senior offensive lineman Kyle Johnson. “He was very happy with that and with the reduced amount of penalties. So having that in mind, and knowing that, is a major plus in our book.”
Johnson spoke highly of Mangum and believes he'll continue to adjust well in large part due to the players around him. From the receivers to the running backs to the offensive line, the Cougar offense is stacked with experience, which should lend Mangum a helpful hand going up against Boise State on Saturday.
“That’s one of the greatest things you can have as a young quarterback,” Johnson said. “It takes a ton of pressure off him and it makes life a ton easier for him because, not only is he having to take control of the offense, but we can take care of it ourselves and take a lot of pressure off of him.”
The Cougar offense was far from perfect on Saturday, particularly a running attack that produced just 34 yards absent runs made by quarterbacks Mangum and Hill. At the suggestion that many are concerned with the lack of a rushing attack Anae bristled, suggesting, “Get all the guys that are concerned with the run game to put on a hat and let them coach."
Granted, there wasn't much focus on getting the run game going against the Huskers, with running backs Algernon Brown, Adam Hine and Nate Carter combining for only 11 rushing attempts.
“I thought they did a pretty good job,” Anae assessed. “They ran hard, they secured the ball and they blocked well. For the most part, we were on point and they were really focused. That was last week and the challenge is to see if we can carry and improve our focus. Not just running backs, but with everyone across the board.”
The Cougars will likely need to improve in all areas if they hope to upend the Broncos. The Broncos ran over the Cougars last season 55-30 in Boise, and the team is expecting a team at least that good to visit Provo on Saturday.
“I think they’re every bit as good, absolutely,” Anae said. “They’re solid, they’re sound, they run to the ball and they tackle well. We look forward to a physical, challenging game in our stadium.”
Being at home against a tough opponent is something players relish, particularly in light of tough road games against UCLA and Michigan following Saturday's showdown.
“It’s such a huge advantage, especially playing Boise State here,” Johnson said. “We love to play in our stadium, we love our fans, we love how excited they get and how loud they get. It’s just a huge advantage for us and it always will be.”