It was a play that Tanner Mangum will remember for the rest of his life.
After Taysom Hill — a Heisman Trophy candidate — went down with another season-ending injury, Mangum — who was just fresh off of his mission in Antofagasta, Chile — was thrust into the national spotlight during the season opening game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in front of 89,959 screaming fans inside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With Nebraska holding on to a 28-27 lead and with just one second remaining in the game, Mangum scrambled just long enough so that his teammates could run down the field before throwing a Hail Mary towards the end zone.
Senior wide receiver Mitch Mathews somehow came down with the ball for the game-winning catch as players and coaches rushed the field in celebration.
“That was a special moment,” Mangum said at BYU Media Day. “You dream about those kind of moments and to have that happen was pretty incredible.”
Mangum then added to his late-game heroics by throwing another game-winning touchdown the following week against Boise State in the home opener.
After the second consecutive last-second victory, Mangum offered an apology to now former head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
“I’m sorry for making it so close,” he said.
And when asked if he expects to deliver another repeat performance this year for Cougar fans, “Miracle Mangum” smiled and said, “Hopefully we don’t have to have any this year. You don’t want to be down late in a game, but you have to make the most out of every situation. … But it was definitely a fun season last year.”
After leading the Cougars to nine victories last season, Mangum is excited and ready to build off a successful freshman season if he is called upon to be the starting quarterback in Ty Detmer’s pro-style offense.
With Hill — a fifth-year senior — coming back from a medical redshirt, the battle continues to see who will start under center when the Cougars take on the Arizona Wildcats out of the Pac-12 Conference just 64 days from now at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
“Taysom and Tanner are both tremendous quarterbacks with a lot of talent,” said Detmer, the 1990 Heisman Trophy winner who is going into his first year as a college coach. “The hardest thing is determining who is going to be the guy. As we head into fall camp, we’ll give each other an equal amount of reps and then go from there. We’re not going to wait to announce anything and try and surprise teams. We want to go in knowing who our guy is and do everything we can to support them.”
Both Hill and Mangum emphasized how much they respect one another and that there aren’t any hard feelings between them.
“Taysom and I are not only competitors but good friends, too,” Mangum said. “We want competition because that’s what makes you better. It pushes you, and you have to bring your A-game every day. There is definitely no animosity between each of us. It’s a healthy competition and isn’t negative in any way. We are both BYU guys and we are all about the team. We’re on the same team. It’s not Team Tanner or Team Taysom.”
Whether he is the starter or not, Mangum says he will continue to get better every day because you never know when you will be called upon.
“Last year was a big testament to me and a lot of other players that you have to be ready,” he said. “This year everyone is excited with the new coaches and new system. But we know that hype doesn’t mean anything and that you have to put in the work. You have to put in the work when nobody is watching so that you can shine when everyone is watching.”
Mangum has put in the work not just in practice but in the weight room, too. The sophomore has gained 15 pounds since last year.
“I was soft just coming off the mission,” he said. “I’m a lot stronger now, confident and comfortable. I’m able to take the hits and to throw the ball with a lot more confidence.”
Working alongside Detmer — one of the all-time greats in BYU History — Mangum admitted that he was a little star-struck when he first met his new offensive coordinator.
“I was definitely star-struck when I first met him,” he said. “I was a huge BYU fan growing up, and it was special to be able to meet him, let alone have him as my coach now. He’s a legend, and I’ve already learned so much from him these last couple of months. It’s a lot of fun working with him. It really is everything that people think it is.”