Provo • Amidst the misery that this week will surely bring for BYU fans disgusted with the football team’s 1-4 start and seven-turnover loss to Utah State on Friday comes a perplexing question that could take their minds off the misery, but probably won’t.
Who is going to be the starting quarterback this Friday against Boise State?
The Broncos are coming off a bye after getting blown out on the blue turf by Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia Cavaliers on Sept. 22 and have their own issues, obviously.
At BYU, however, get ready for five days of speculation and guessing before the Cougars and 2-2 Broncos kick off at 8:15 p.m. MT at LaVell Edwards Stadium in a game that will be televised by ESPN.
The Cougars would like their QB to be opening-day starter Tanner Mangum, the Boise-area native they invested so much time and effort in last spring and throughout training camp. But that’s a longshot. Mangum was in street clothes and wearing a protective boot on his left foot during the USU game, although he did throw a few passes in pregame warmups.
“Well, he keeps improving, so we will see how that goes. He is anxious [to play],” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “He is from Boise, so that is a personal thing for him. But we will see how it goes. We will have to evaluate.”
Beau Hoge made his second career start against the Aggies and played considerably better than he did two weeks prior against Wisconsin, aside from an off-target throw that bounced off the back of a USU defender and was intercepted and returned for a momentum-swinging touchdown by Aggie cornerback Jalen Davis.
The first-down pass when the Cougars had been running the ball effectively brought out the second-guessers.
“We were doing good things with the run around that time and I think the call was just, with them focused on [stopping] the run, to do a play-action boot,” Sitake said. “It was just a bad throw.”
After an 11-yard run by Ula Toluta’u opened BYU’s subsequent possession, Hoge was injured on a read-option run that netted 7 yards and he left the game with apparent concussion-like symptoms. He has to be considered doubtful, at best, for Friday.
“The main thing is to take care of our guys and make sure that they don’t put themselves in a risky position,” Sitake said. “We want to win, but not at the expense of hurting their livelihood.”
Some of Sitake’s postgame comments seemed to indicate that he was leaning away from giving Koy Detmer Jr. another shot, after the walk-on from Texas had a rough outing, with three interceptions and just seven completions on 20 throws. Nimble-footed Austin Kafentzis was effective in certain situations in a wildcat role, but hasn’t been in the QBs room since the first week of camp and isn’t really considered an every-down QB anymore.
The Cougars were hoping to redshirt both of the freshman returned missionaries on the roster, Tennessee’s Joe Critchlow and St. George’s Kody Wilstead. But Critchlow briefly warmed up in the second half of Friday’s game, suggesting coaches were at least considering putting him in and pulling the redshirt.
“We could have put Joe in there [against USU], but I just thought it was unfair to him, not knowing the entire package and not being able to have all those [repetitions in practice],” Sitake told KSL Radio.
Having committed to Southern Utah out of high school in Franklin, Tenn., Critchlow signed with BYU last February and returned from a church mission to Montreal, Canada, in June. Sitake and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer have both said the 6-foot-4 redhead is “capable” of learning the offense quickly.
But the Cougars’ problems, Sitake acknowledged, extend well beyond the quarterback position.
“It is not going to snowball,” Sitake said. “We have great leaders on this team. We know exactly what the issues are. We need to correct them. Dealing with injuries and the other things, and then some adversity, that is what we have to respond to right now. We are in a hole right now. We have to bounce back, but you can only do it by trying to win the next one.”
Boise State at BYU, 8:15 p.m.