10 questions surrounding the UW-BYU football game

Jennifer Buchanan photo

The road does not scare the Cougars

Brigham Young University shows up at Husky Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a 17½-point underdog, a daunting task for any visiting football team. Yet these Cougars won’t shy from an undertaking far from home—they’ve been to a lot tougher places than Seattle and dealt with large crowds, language barriers and questionable food before.

These players have toured places like Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Tonga, United Kingdom and Uruguay. They’ve turned up in Atlanta, Billings, Dallas, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Nashville, San Antonio, San Jose, Tulsa and Wichita.

BYU reserve defensive lineman Merrill Taliauli even spent several months trying, oh my, to survive Federal Way.

So what does it all mean? We’ll answer that in 10 questions that surround the UW-BYU game. We begin with …

  1. So what’s up with all of the international stamps on the BYU passports?

These players, of course, answer the call of the Mormon religion by going on missions once they reach college and before they go out for football. The BYU roster shows that 70 of the 117 players listed have completed what typically is a two-year commitment in or out of this country that involves wearing skinny ties, knocking on doors cold and spreading the word about their beliefs, not an easy ask. Which means some of the Cougars are up there in years, such as Matt Hadley, a running back/linebacker from Eastern Washington’s Connell High School who committed to BYU… in 2010.

  1. How old is the BYU quarterback?

Everyone thinks Jake Browning has been around a long time, but Tanner Mangum has him beat. The Cougars’ signal-caller is 25, three more than Browning, and so old that Chris Petersen once tried to recruit him out of Eagle, Idaho … when the coach was at Boise State. “I can’t believe that he’s still playing college football,” Petersen said in a gee-whiz moment. “We liked him a lot. He was an awesome kid. He’s been out there a long time. He’s kind of a fifth-year quarterback.” Mangum started as a freshman, was a sub as a sophomore and was lost to a season-ending Achilles injury in 2017.

  1. What is a Squally Canada?

He’s a Cougar and a former Cougar. BYU’s starting running back spent the 2104 season at Washington State, sat out with an injury, decided he didn’t like Mike Leach’s pass-oriented offense and transferred to another air-emphasized attack. Bryant Patrick Canada was nicknamed “Squally” as a young child by his father after he used to stand and stare at Squaw trees in California. He’s a first-year starter as a senior, rushing for 98 yards against Arizona and 118 against Wisconsin.

  1. We’ve had conflicting reports: what time is kickoff anyway?

Contrary to ESPN.com’s website listings earlier in the week, the Huskies and Cougars get after it at 5:30 p.m., not 4:30. Maybe the media giant thought the game was slotted for Provo and Mountain time. Either way, you simply will have more time to wolf down your tailgate beverages and snacks. After last week’s weak forecast, we’re not going anywhere near a weather report this time.

  1. Can the Cougars beat UW?

They already have, pulling one of the biggest college football upsets this season, winning 24-21 over UW—the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin. BYU was a 23½-point underdog that day while the Badgers were ranked sixth in the Associated Press poll. The Cougars resorted to trickery when wide receiver Alevo Hifo tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau in the second quarter. They got lucky at the end when Wisconsin’s normally reliable kicker missed a 42-yard field-goal try with 41 seconds left. Side note: While Wisconsin refers to itself as UW, it does not answer to U-Dub.

  1. What happened to BYU’s vaunted air attack, where its quarterbacks regularly topped the nation in passing?

It went out the door last year with Ty Detmer, the Cougars’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, who was fired as offensive coordinator following a 4-9 season. It was time to change things up. Mangum, in four games as the starter this season, averages 128 yards passing per game.

  1. What is a Fly or Jet Sweep?

Before the ball is snapped, BYU conducts what best resembles a fire drill. As many as five players move every which way in a highly choreographed football ballet as Mangum calls out the signals. Once the ball is snapped, the quarterback offers a misdirection handoff. The Cougars have shifted 220 times and run 27 sweeps in four games. LSU used this attack based on confusion to beat BYU 27-0 early last season. Remembering this, the Cougars hired away Tigers offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, well schooled on this shifty ground game, and made him offensive coordinator.

  1. What’s up with the Huskies and the AP poll?

It’s been a continual plummet. Sixth-ranked UW lost a close one to Auburn in its opener and fell to ninth. Fair enough. The Huskies beat North Dakota and dropped to 10th. OK, bad opponent. They defeated a decent Utah team and slipped into a tie for 10th with Penn State. Huh? They next beat Arizona State on national TV and tumbled to 11th. So what’s a victory over 20th-ranked BYU worth? Twelfth anyone?

  1. What happened to trash talk?

Cougars cornerback Chris Wilcox, when asked about the Washington receiving corps, had this bubbly response this week, “It’s one of the best groups of receivers in the country, if not the best.” Granted, one-time Provo resident Ty Jones of the Huskies has star quality written all over him after pulling in four TD catches in four games, but there’s no John Ross or Dante Pettis out there hauling in home-run balls. The UW pass-catchers are good enough, just not great.

  1. What’s the final verdict?

The Huskies are more than two-touchdown favorites at home. They’re ranked nine spots higher than their guests. They lead the series 5-4. They have everything going for them except the blessing of CBSsports.com, which chooses this game as one of five nationally capable of an upset. The Huskies are going to drop another outing or two this season, but it won’t be this weekend. UW 25, BYU 23.