No matter how many games Tanner Mangum plays for Brigham Young, it will be hard for him to top what he did in his first one.
After replacing the injured Taysom Hill early in the fourth quarter, Mangum threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Mathews with no time left to give the Cougars a 33-28 victory over Nebraska on Saturday.
“It was a good welcome to college football,” Mangum said.
The play spoiled the debut of Cornhuskers Coach Mike Riley, who raised his clenched fists over his head and looked down as his headset slipped backward.
Mathews jumped around at midfield as teammates mobbed him after the play stood up to a video review.
“I had to come down with it,” Mathews said. “I had to come down with it for my guys. Some time you have to do what you have to do, and that’s catch the rock and win the game. I didn’t know I scored right away because I was under a pile of people. Nick Kurtz was laying on me and was screaming.”
The victory came with a price. Hill suffered a season-ending injury for the second consecutive season. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hill fractured a foot on a 21-yard touchdown run in the first half. He went to the locker room before returning, then left after getting hit hard on an eight-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“The training staff said they’ve never seen anyone go back and play in the same game once that’s happened,” Mendenhall said. “He allowed us to stay within striking distance.”
Mangum completed seven of 11 passes for 111 yards.
“I was just proud of the way he was able to lead our team on the big stage, in an historic stadium, finding a way to pull it out,” Mendenhall said of Mangum.
Trevor Samson’s 35-yard field goal cut the Brigham Young deficit to 28-27 with 7 minutes 57 seconds left, and after Drew Brown missed a 41-yard field-goal try for Nebraska, the Cougars started their final drive from their 35. There were 48 seconds to play.
Mangum faced four and three from the Nebraska 42 when he threw the winning pass against a three-man rush.
“I rolled out and threw it. It wasn’t my best ball,” Mangum said. “Came out a little wobbly. But I was just glad it got there. Mitch made a heck of a catch and was able to fall in for the score.”
The Cornhuskers lost their season opener for the first time since 1985, ending the nation’s longest streak.
Riley, in his 41st year in coaching, said he couldn’t remember losing a game the way he did his first one at Nebraska.
“I initially thought he was not in the end zone, but I had a really bad view,” Riley said. “I saw the official raise his hands right away, so I knew.”
Tommy Armstrong Jr. passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns, his last one going nine yards to Trey Foster to give Nebraska a 28-24 lead, and Jordan Westerkamp caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.