|Joe Critchlow made his first appearance of the season against Boise State. (Chris Detrick, Salt Lake Tribune)|
With the game out of reach, the BYU Cougars sent true freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow in for the final 2:17 against Boise State. He attempted four passes, and completed two of them for eight yards.
Immediately following the game, the questions of why? and what does this mean? blew up everywhere. From the BYUtv post game show, to the local newspapers, and of course, all over the internet. Reputable individuals were questioning, "Does this mean the coaches plan to start Critchlow next week at Mississippi State?"
Slow down. Let's not overreact. Take a deep breath, and let's go through this one thought at a time. The reason the coaches, particularly Offensive Coordinator Ty Detmer, pulled Critchlow's redshirt is very simple. It doesn't involve any drama over Tanner Mangum losing his starting job for poor performance.
Detmer was being completely honest and forthright with Mangum about the reason for having Critchlow play the final series. "Coach Detmer told me that we're just trying to protect and keep the ankle healthy," Mangum told reporters after the game.
Mangum was not 100 percent healthy at the beginning of the game. In the fourth quarter, as BYU's sense of urgency peaked, the Boise State pass rush intensified. The Broncos were getting more pressure and knocking Mangum around more and more. Therefore, as soon as there was no chance for a comeback, there was no reason to continue to put Mangum in harm's way.
If this game had been like the 2014 game with Boise State, where the Broncos led 41-16 at halftime, Critchlow would have come into the game much sooner.
Why Critchlow, then, and not Koy Detmer, Jr. or Austin Kafentzis? Critchlow could keep his redshirt if one of them relieved Mangum. Well, there are still seven games on the schedule. BYU needs a back up quarterback.
Detmer, Jr. showed in Logan he is not a viable option. Kafentzis might have been a high school legend, but he is not a college quarterback. Beau Hoge appears to be out indefinitely.
No one knows how Mangum's ankle was going to feel Saturday--the day after. If it regressed, would it recover enough by next Saturday, October 14, to play? The thought had to be in the back of Detmer's mind that he may have to go with Critchlow at Mississippi State, but only out of medical necessity.
Davis Wade Stadium is not the place where you have a true freshman quarterback a few months removed from his two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take his first collegiate snap. The four downs Critchlow played against Boise State were great for getting his feet wet. That doesn't mean the cowbells and SEC size and speed won't present difficulties for Critchlow should he need to play, but it means the first play jitters won't add to the challenge.
Mangum has been a big disappointment this season, so far. However, he gives BYU the best chance to win in Starkville next week, and in the remaining six games that follow. Detmer will not bench Mangum for Critchlow, this season.
The decision to get Critchlow, the new backup quarterback, some playing experience goes far beyond Mangum's status for next week, or whether Critchlow will overtake Mangum on the depth chart. BYU's bowl hopes are almost on life support. If Mangum sustains another injury at any point in the season, BYU needs someone who can keep the ship afloat.
Critchlow is going to have to be that guy. If he can't take BYU to a bowl game, then this coaching staff's jobs could be in jeopardy. The level of competition decreases significantly after Mississippi State, but the Utah State game is evidence that BYU still needs a certain level of quarterback play during the second half of the season to reach bowl eligibility.
In light of this possible scenario, it makes a lot of sense to get Critchlow into every game as soon as the outcome is decided. BYU does not want to go to Hawaii the final game of the season, needing a victory to become bowl eligible, and send Crichlow out there for his first live action. Hawaii isn't SEC country, but it is still hostile territory. Many good Cougar teams have come home from Honolulu either narrowly escaping defeat, or having their tails between their legs. Detmer started this strategy for building Critchlow's experience in the Boise State game.
Getting back to those two burning questions.
- Why did Detmer pull Critchlow's redshirt? To get Mangum out of the game and protect his health.
- What does it mean? Critchlow is BYU's new backup quarterback, and he needs to be ready to take over if Mangum can't play at anytime the rest of this season.
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org