We’ve got to stop stepping on our own toes. We’ve got to minimize our mistakes and just execute. —BYU running back Squally Canada
PROVO — Not only did BYU lose its eighth game of the season Saturday night at Fresno State, the Cougars also lost their starting quarterback.
Junior Tanner Mangum suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the fourth quarter of a 20-13 setback to the Bulldogs.
BYU will visit UNLV Friday (8:30 p.m. MST, ESPN2) with a new starting quarterback — either sophomore Beau Hoge or freshman Joe Critchlow.
Hoge replaced Mangum Saturday and completed 3 of 10 passes for 51 yards.
Meanwhile, BYU (2-8) is assured to finish with a losing record for the first time since 2004, when the Cougars posted a 5-6 mark in coach Gary Crowton's final season. BYU would need to win its final three games to end up with five wins this year.
And the Cougars' streak of 12 consecutive bowl games has come to an end.
“We’ve got to get better,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “This is not BYU football.”
The same problems that have hurt the Cougars all season long haunted them again Saturday.
BYU outgained the Bulldogs in total offense, 336-310, but the Cougars struggled to score.
“All that matters is the points,” Sitake said.
Mistakes, such as penalties, dropped passes and errant throws doomed BYU.
“We’ve got to stop stepping on our own toes. We’ve got to minimize our mistakes and just execute,” said running back Squally Canada. “When (offensive coordinator Ty) Detmer calls a play, we’ve got to execute, no matter what the play is called. No matter if anybody disagrees, it’s upon us to execute. We’ve got to do better at execution.”
Meanwhile, the Cougar defense gave up a few big plays through the air and failed to get pressure on FSU quarterback Marcus McMaryion.
“We could have done more things on defense to stop the run and create more disruption,” Sitake said. “I thought we should have had more opportunities getting more big plays on defense and creating turnovers.”
There were a few bright spots Saturday, such as place-kicker Rhett Almond’s career-long 46-yard field goal that pulled BYU to within 10-6 as time expired at the end of the first half.
Canada ran 12 times for 84 yards and scored the Cougars’ only touchdown. With KJ Hall and Ula Tolutau unavailable, Canada’s production on the ground was big for BYU’s offense.
“I thought he ran the ball really well. It was nice to have him back, especially not having KJ,” Sitake said of Canada. “He stepped in and did well. It looks like he’s back to his normal self now.”
Going into the game, Canada didn’t know how many carries he’d get.
“If someone’s in a rhythm and they’re doing well, that person’s going to get the ball more. I just found my rhythm and I happened to get the ball more than usual,” he said. “I just had more opportunities. I did more with the chances I was given. KJ’s out. Ula’s out. We have a lot of running backs falling off. They called my number and I was ready.”
Canada said the team believed it could win last Saturday's game even when Mangum went down with the injury.
“We’ve got confidence in anybody that’s back there,” he said. “As a team, we pump each other up. When somebody goes down it’s next man up. That’s the mindset you’ve got to have.”
Mangum completed 20 of 33 passes for 163 yards in his final game of the season. In the first quarter, Mangum surpassed the 5,000-yard career passing mark and became the 14th BYU quarterback to accomplish that feat.
Mangum has a long road to recovery ahead of him.
The Cougars have three games remaining — at UNLV, at home to UMass and at Hawaii.
BYU has never lost to the Rebels in Las Vegas.
UNLV (4-5) has won two consecutive games, a 26-16 decision at Fresno State and last Saturday's 31-23 home victory against Hawaii.
“We’re going to keep fighting and keep moving forward and finish off these three games that we have left,” said BYU defensive lineman Sione Takitaki. “Even though the season’s going rough, we’re going to get back on Monday and get back to work. It’s not the end of the world. We’re blessed to play this game, we’re blessed to be at this beautiful institution at BYU, we’re blessed with family members. Football is not all of life. We’re blessed to play this game.”
BYU (2-8) at UNLV (4-5)
Friday, 8:30 p.m. MST Sam Boyd Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM