TUCSON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – After one of the worst seasons in BYU history, the Cougars look poised for a completely different year.
Squally Canada rushed for 98 yards and three touchdowns, while Tanner Mangum threw for 209 yards and a touchdown, as BYU held off Arizona in its season opener, 28-23.
“We’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so really happy for the team in their ability to get the win,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.
BYU went 4-9 last year, but was overpowering up front on offense, especially up front, rushing for 183 yards as a team, and racking up 392 yards of total offense.
The BYU defense limited Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate’s effectiveness by not letting him get out and run, holding the Heisman hopeful to 14 yards rushing and 197 yards passing.
Mangum battled injuries last season, throwing nine interceptions and eight touchdowns before going down with a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury. He was sharp against Arizona, throwing for 209 yards and a touchdown on 18-of-28 passing with one score an no interceptions. He completed passes to ten different receivers.
“It was fun,” Mangum said. “I was just enjoying it, the atmosphere, I love being with the guys and being healthy.”
Mangum orchestrated a drive to set up Canada’s first 1-yard TD run in the second quarter to give BYU a 7-0 lead. Tate threw a touchdown pass to Tony Eillison to give the Wildcats a 10-7 lead at the half.
But the Cougars dominated hte third quarter. Mangum led the Cougars on a drive to open the half, capped by a 24-yard scoring pass to Matt Bushman that put BYU up 14-10.
The Cougars began blowing the Wildcats off the ball on their next quick-hitting drive, marching 58 yards for Canada’s second 1-yard TD run. Canada’s 2-yard run at the end of the third quarter put BYU up 28-10.
Tate rallied Arizona in the fourth quarter. He scored on a 2-yard run and set up J.J. Taylor’s 1-yard TD run with just over three minutes left, but Arizona trailed 28-23 after the 2-point conversion failed.
BYU never let the Wildcats get the ball back, grinding out a pair of first downs behind its powerful offensive line.
“We got into a game that they were able to control the line of scrimmage,” Sumlin said. “We couldn’t get them off the field and when we did put them in a third-down position, they were able to make the plays to get a first down.”
Corbin Kaufusi led the BYU defense with seven tackles and a sack.
After winning its 5th straight season opener, BYU returns home next Saturday to host Cal at 8:15 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium.