September 22, 2015

BYU finally ran out of magic in its first defeat of the season after its previously stout run defense was gashed repeatedly.

The 22nd-ranked Cougars will have to clean things up ahead of Saturday's game at Michigan, which continues to look impressive on the ground.

BYU (2-1) came up with final-minute victories against Nebraska and then-No. 20 Boise State but couldn't pull off a third straight win as an underdog, falling 24-23 at then-No. 10 UCLA last Saturday.

Tanner Mangum led the team on a 43-yard drive in the fourth quarter but was intercepted with 58 seconds left.

"The thing about a good quarterback is that he's not going to get down just for making one throwaway interception," receiver Mitchell Juergens said of his 22-year-old freshman signal-caller. "He's a champion, he's a leader, he's a captain, and he's going to come back from this."

Mistakes were few and far between for Mangum, who was 30 of 47 for 244 yards and a touchdown and has recorded a 136.0 passer rating through his first three career games in replacing the injured Taysom Hill. Mangum's 62.8 completion percentage is the highest by a Cougar since Max Hall's 67.2 in 2009. Unlike Mangum, Hall was a third-year starter.

"He's amazing," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Road games are not too big. Different stadiums, different teams - he's showing a lot of command for a true freshman."

Mendenhall has to be concerned after his defense surrendered 296 yards on 38 carries. BYU had limited its first two opponents to 2.8 yards per carry.

"That was terrible. I think we're a better team than that," defensive lineman Graham Rowley said. "But, it was a teaching moment for us that we need to learn how to tackle and wrap up and finish. It's kind of a blessing that it happened to us, even though it's disguised as a failure. We can do better, and we will do better."

Michigan (2-1) struggled to establish the run in its season opener, amassing 76 yards on 29 carries in a 24-17 loss at Utah. Since then, however, the Wolverines have averaged 239.5 yards in victories against Oregon State and UNLV.

USC transfer Ty Isaac gave the team a boost last Saturday against the Rebels by running for 114 yards, including a 76-yard TD scamper - the school's longest run since Denard Robinson in 2012. Isaac's performance helped pick up lead back De'Veon Smith, who was limited to 33 yards on 13 carries after running for 126 against the Beavers.

"We don't ever talk about any running back controversy - just so you know - from here on out," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "Quarterback controversy, I'll address that. Whenever you want to know who the starting quarterback is, I will talk to you about that.''

As far as quarterback play goes, Iowa transfer Jake Rudock has been shaky for Harbaugh, throwing five interceptions. Rudock, who averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt against UNLV, could fall prey to an opportunistic BYU defense, which is tied for the FBS lead with seven interceptions.

The Cougars, who are playing three of their first four games on the road for the first time since 2000, are again an underdog despite proving pundits wrong twice already.

"You have to keep earning it (respect) and you have keep playing well," Mendenhall said. "So far, we're an exciting team to watch. You can tune in right until the end to see what the outcome is going to be. Maybe Michigan will be another one of those games."

BYU won the only other previous meeting in the 1984 Holiday Bowl to finish 13-0 and clinch a consensus national title. Harbaugh was a member of that Wolverines squad.

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