Provo • It was Oct. 9, 2010, and the BYU Cougars were facing a situation strikingly similar to what they face Friday night when the Boise State Broncos roll into Provo — with one glaring exception.
After their record dropped to 1-4 with their fourth straight loss, a 15-point setback at Utah State, the Cougars somehow reinvented themselves — Bronco Mendenhall’s firing of defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and giving himself the role provided the biggest spark — and upset then-Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State 24-21 to turn around a disappointing season.
Will history repeat itself at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Oct. 6, 2017?
It seems highly improbable because Boise State (2-2) is more talented than that Aztecs team seven years ago, is favored by more than a touchdown and BYU (1-4) is worse offensively than it was in 2010. Through five games, it is arguably the worst BYU offense since Edwards became the coach in 1972.
Oh, and the Cougars could be starting their fourth-string quarterback, a freshman who was on an LDS Church mission four months ago and has taken precious few snaps in practices, let alone scrimmages or a major college football game. BYU’s homecoming game will kick off at 8:15 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.
Obviously, the big question is who will start under center after backup Beau Hoge was injured in the 40-24 loss to USU and third-stringer Koy Detmer Jr. was ineffective and threw three interceptions. Coach Kalani Sitake spoke Monday as if Detmer was not an option then ruled out Hoge (concussion) in his coaches show Tuesday night.
So it either will be opening-day starter Tanner Mangum or recently returned missionary Joe Critchlow, whom the Cougars were hoping to redshirt this season so the 200-pounder could gain some weight and add more muscle.
Mangum threw a little bit in practice last week and took some reps in practices earlier this week for the first time since before the Utah game, where he suffered a high-ankle sprain on the last play of the game. But he was in a protective boot on the sidelines last Friday in Logan.
BOISE STATE AT BYU
At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Kickoff • 8:15 p.m. Saturday
TV • ESPN
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records •BYU 1-4, Boise State 2-2
Series history • BSU leads 5-2
Last meeting • Boise State 28, BYU 27 (Oct. 21, 2016)
About the Broncos • They have scored a touchdown the first time they’ve had the ball in each of their first four games. … They are 2-2 for the first time since 2013 and are coming off a bye week, having lost 42-23 to Virginia on Sept. 22. … They have not won in Provo since 2003 and fell 35-24 to Tanner Mangum-led BYU two years ago in Provo.
About the Cougars • They are 1-4 for the first time since 2010, a year they finished 7-6. … Backup QB Beau Hoge won’t play due to an injury he suffered in the second quarter of last week’s 40-24 loss at Utah State. … Senior LB Fred Warner is averaging 8.2 tackles per game and has had two pick sixes against Boise State in his standout career. … Linebacker Butch Pau’u is questionable to play with a hand injury suffered against USU.
Critchlow, a 6-foot-4 redhead with a big arm from Tennessee, and Mangum got the most reps through Wednesday’s practice, observers said.
Whether the Boise-area native will play probably won’t be decided until pregame warmups.
“I will say this with Tanner: If he is healthy and ready to go and he has had good practice time, then he will play. He will start,” Sitake said Monday.
Defensively, the Cougars could be without another captain, linebacker Butch Pau’u. He suffered a hand injury against USU and also likely will be a game-time decision. It’s not a good recipe to get revenge for last year’s heartbreaking 28-27 loss in which the Broncos blocked a BYU field-goal attempt with 16 seconds remaining.
“We have a great team coming in this week, and we are looking forward to helping our team win by stopping the run,” Sitake said.
If only it was that simple.
Boise State has two solid quarterbacks in junior Brett Rypien and Kansas transfer Montell Cozart, a senior who is more of a dual-threat QB than the starter. Senior receiver Cedrick Wilson, who has 29 catches for 485 yards and three touchdowns, is a big-play threat.
“They carry a lot of different plays, a lot of different formations, and they want to get the ball out on the perimeter and down the field,” BYU safeties coach Ed Lamb said. “They push the tempo, and they are a lot to prepare for.”
That includes the usual Boise State assortment of gadget plays.
“We just gotta be ready for the long bombs that they throw and just the tricky plays,” said BYU’s Sione Takitaki, a defensive end who could see time again at middle linebacker or as a spy on Cozart if Pau’u can’t go. “Boise State is known for trick plays. We have to be ready for it all.”