Handsome Tanielu tipped a pass that fluttered in the air and fell into the hands of fellow BYU defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga.

He dropped it.

And the Cougars’ season to forget, symbolized by that failure to take advantage of even the smallest of breaks, dropped even further into the depths of despair.

In a nationally televised battle of struggling teams desperate for a win, Boise State played with more urgency, poise and creativity and defeated punchless BYU 24-7 in front of 59,753 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night. It was BYU’s fifth straight loss after a season-opening win against FCS opponent Portland State.

“I think it is a broken record now,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “You can pretty much take the same things that were said last week and do it again. Just an obviously frustrating loss.”

Even with starting quarterback Tanner Mangum returning to the lineup after missing two games with an ankle injury, the Cougars could not find their offensive rhythm after a decent start.

“I take full responsibility for our struggles,” said Mangum, who was 18 of 33 for 164 yards, with two interceptions. “I know we can compete better than that.”

Mangum said his heavily taped ankle “held up” fairly well, but was sore after the game and back in a protective boot.

“Frustrated,” Mangum said, acknowledging the first-half interception he threw killed BYU’s early momentum. “I hate losing. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do.”

The Cougars took a 7-0 lead, but after that it was all Boise State, which won in Provo for the first time since 2003. Strangely, BYU inserted freshman Joe Critchlow with 2:17 remaining in the game, pulling his redshirt. Mangum was 18 of 33 for 164 yards and two interceptions.

“We were just trying to find some momentum and get some positive yards,” Sitake said of burning Critchlow’s redshirt. “Obviously, you see Tanner limping around a little bit, and we just wanted to see what Joe could do.”

Again, BYU’s offense sputtered and its defense — playing without linebackers Butch Pau’u and Matt Hadley — could not get off the field on third down. Boise State was 8 of 14 on third down, methodically marching down the field in lieu of the big plays the Broncos have usually used to thwart the Cougars.

“This is not what we thought it would be,” Sitake said, referring to his disastrous second season and the game itself.

The Cougars managed 161 yards of offense through three quarters, 95 passing and 66 rushing, and Boise State gradually took control. The Cougars didn’t go over the 200-yard mark until 12 minutes remained in the game, and finished with 238. Boise State had 300, which was more than enough.

“Not really going to sugarcoat it. Just bad reads” on Mangum’s part, Sitake said. “Obviously, the interceptions didn’t help.”

Leading 17-7 at the half, Boise State (3-2) went on a 16-play, 82-yard drive and punctuated it with a 1-yard TD plunge by Alexander Mattison that sealed the win. The Broncos converted on third down four times.

“That one drive was a third-down nightmare,” Sitake said.

Tausinga’s drop came on Boise State’s previous series, and would have given BYU the ball near the Boise State 35. A big defensive lineman can’t be expected to catch anything, but it was one of those opportunities that the Cougars have wasted this season when they have little margin for error.

After Boise State’s third TD, the Cougars got rolling a bit, but a 34-yard reception by Micah Simon was negated by Thomas Shoaf’s holding penalty, and a long pass on fourth-and-1 from the 48 was incomplete.

Frustration reigned, and fans started hitting the exits. It was the third straight game in which the offense started fast, then fizzled.

“If I had that figured out, I would have done that three weeks ago,” Sitake said.

The Cougars put together their best opening quarter of the season, on both sides, to take a 7-0 lead. It was the first time BYU has scored on its first possession all season, as Ula Tolutau scored from the 3 after a Grant Jones interception set the Cougars up near midfield. Jones and Johnny Tapusoa started at linebacker for Hadley and Pau’u.

It is the first time that BYU has lost five straight games since the end of the 1990 season and beginning of 1991 when it lost to to Hawaii and Texas A&M and then Florida State, UCLA and Penn State. Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer was the quarterback then.

Mangum was 4-for-4 passing on the drive and completed his first five passes before a deep throw to a heavily defended Jonah Trinnaman fell incomplete.

The Cougars held Boise State to 25 yards in the first quarter, but the Broncos got good field position after a block-in-the-back penalty and a 22-yard punt early in the second quarter. They capitalized to even the score at 7. Mattison’s 12-yard touchdown run put the Broncos on the board.

It is the first time that BYU has lost five straight games since the end of the 1990 season and beginning of 1991 when it lost to to Hawaii and Texas A&M and then Florida State, UCLA and Penn State. Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer was the quarterback in all five of those losses.

The last time BYU lost five straight games in one season was in 1970, to Western Michigan, UTEP, San Diego State, Arizona and Arizona State.