|Devon Blackmon (Spenser Heaps, The Daily Herald)|
The first meeting (October 10, 2015) between the BYU Cougars and the East Carolina Pirates was a see-saw, shootout. Both teams blocked a punt, and both teams used two quarterbacks. However, what was remembered most was how Tanner Mangum shook off a tender hamstring to lead the game-winning drive.
East Caroline (ECU) had already been rotating two quarterbacks during the season. The Pirates coaches decided to go with the more mobile quarterback to start. ECU did pick up a first down on the game's opening drive, but the drive quickly ended after Fred Warner broke up the first pass attempt, and Sione Takitaki got the Cougars' first sack on third down.
ECU got a sack of its own on BYU's first offensive play. That led to a 3rd and 13 where Mangum found Mitch Mathews for 45 yards. Later in the drive, Algernon Brown was stuffed on 3rd and 2. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to go for a first down. Brown got the ball again, and he got the first down. However, before he was tackled, the ball came out and ECU recovered.
With the momentum of the turnover, ECU marched downfield and took a 7-0 lead on a 34-yard run by its quarterback. The Pirate defense stepped up and forced BYU into a punting situation. The punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone by ECU.
Trailing 14-0, BYU got aggressive. The Cougars chose not to punt on 4th and 1 deep in their own territory. Brown took the hand off and was hit at the line of scrimmage. He spun off the would-be tacklers to pick up five yards and the first down. Then, Mangum caught fire. He completed passes of 11, 16, and eight yards before dumping the ball off to Brown for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
That closed the gap to 14-7 as the first quarter ended.
The BYU defense made a third down stop on the first play of the second quarter. On the second play, Grant Jones blocked the Pirate punt. Trey Dye recovered at the one-yard line for BYU. Three plays later, Brown scored his second touchdown of the game.
All the momentum was on BYU's side now. ECU punted again without getting a first down.
Even though BYU had tied the game, the Cougars stayed aggressive. BYU ran a fake punt and picked up seven yards on 4th and 2. Three consecutive pass completions of 12 yards or more resulted in a touchdown. Mangum found Mathews from 13 yards out for BYU's first lead of the game.
ECU's quarterback scrambled for a first down on 2nd and 8 on the Pirate's ensuing drive. However, later in the drive, the quarterback was unable to elude Takitaki and Bronson Kaufusi. That sack forced a punt.
Mangum connected with Terenn Houk for 12 yards to start the next BYU drive. That pass gave Mangum 201 yards passing with five minutes to play before halftime. Two plays later, Brown picked up another first down, but fumbled again. This time, the ball went out of bounds, so BYU retained possession.
Following the fumble, a defensive holding penalty gave BYU another first down. Mangum's hot streak continued with a 12-yard completion and a 39-yard bomb to Devon Blackmon. That gave BYU a 1st and Goal at the nine-yard line. Under pressure, Mangum pumped to get the defender off his feet. That gave him time to step up in the pocket and find Houk at the goal line.
BYU had now scored 28 unanswered points. That prompted ECU to make a change at quarterback and go with the throwing specialist.
The new quarterback gave new life to ECU. He completed six of eight passes for 64 yards on the drive. With six seconds left in the half, ECU scored to close the gap to 28-21.
In the second half, BYU picked up right where it left off in the first. Brown broke loose on a draw play for a 53-yard touchdown run. It was the Cougars' fifth straight touchdown drive.
ECU stuck with the passing specialist at quarterback. He had the Pirates on the move again. With an eight-yard pass on 3rd and 2, they reached the BYU 30-yard line. On the next play, ECU fumbled in the backfield and BYU recovered.
A 12-yard sack on second down helped the Pirate defense stop the BYU offense for the first time since the first quarter.
ECU ran the ball for 10 yards, and completed passes of 11, 10, and 14 yards to threaten again. On 2nd and 3, a swarm of Cougar defenders stopped ECU for a four-yard loss, but a 10-yard pass completion gave ECU another first down. Well, it would have if the receiver hadn't fumbled the ball. Warner was there to recover it for BYU.
Mangum found Blackmon on first down for 34-yards. It was Mangum's 13th consecutive completion. On 4th and 6, Mangum scrambled for a first down. That put BYU in scoring range. With 2:25 left in the third quarter, BYU kicked a field goal to go up 38-21.
Mangum was now 21 of 29 for 305 yards and three touchdowns, but he came off the field holding his right hamstring.
ECU ripped off a 25-yard run to reach midfield. On 2nd and 10, BYU got another sack. That set up 3rd and 16. ECU snapped the ball and threw an incomplete pass, but the officials said the play didn't count. BYU had called time out. Michael Davis and Warner made sure the time out didn't backfire. Davis tipped the ball on the play following the time out, and Warner came down with the interception. ECU had turned the ball over for the third drive in a row.
BYU used its second quarterback of the night on the next drive. Up 17 and with Mangum's hammy tender, offensive coordinator Robert Anae sent Beau Hoge into the game. BYU gained five yards on his first two plays. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Hoge attempted his first pass. It was right on target and would have been a first down, but the intended receiver dropped it.
The Cougars were able to pin ECU back deep in its territory. A 32-yard pass got the Pirates away from their goal line. A missed tackle on 2nd and 2 turned what would have been a two-yard gain into 38 yards. With 12:48 to play, ECU scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 38-28.
BYU punted the ball back to ECU just 1:30 later.
ECU was able to get a first down on a pass where it appeared the wide receiver pushed off to create the separation needed to catch the ball. That was the only big play of the drive for ECU, and the Pirates ended up punting.
BYU, however, still couldn't do anything on offense, so the ball went back to ECU with 8:38 to play.
Facing 3rd and 7, ECU threw it deep. Again, it looked like the ECU receiver got away with a push off. This time, BYU would not come away unscathed by the no call. ECU would score a touchdown moments later to make it a three-point game.
Hoge completed his first pass on the next drive. It was good enough for a first down. On the next play, he rolled right and threw back to the middle of the field. The ball was intercepted. That gave ECU the ball in great field position with 5:06 to play.
The Pirates completed a 22-yard pass on first down. Three plays later, the Pirates continued to pick on Davis. He got his third tipped pass of the second half, and forced ECU to tie the game on a field goal.
With the 17-point lead gone, Mangum came back into the game. He completed a seven-yard pass on first down. Now that the Cougars had a passing threat again, that opened up the running lanes. Brown picked up five yards, and then 12 yards on the ground. Pass interference on ECU moved the ball to the Pirates' 39-yard line, but a false start on BYU moved it back five. Mangum then completed back-to-back passes for a total of 20 yards.
Francis Bernard got a turn to carry the ball and picked up five. Then it was all Brown. He had back-to-back five yard carries of his own, and then took it the final nine yards to score the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play.
Final score: BYU 45, East Carolina 38.
Devon Blackmon finished the game with 9 receptions for 142 yards. Both were career highs.
BYU had 508 yards of total offense (341 passing, 167 rushing).
ECU came into the game converting 55 percent of its third downs. The Cougar defense allowed just three conversions on 12 third downs (25%).
PLAY OF THE GAME: Grant Jones punt block.
CO-PLAYER OF THE GAME: Algernon Brown: 24 carries, 134 yards, 3 TD; 2 receptions, 20 yards, 1 TD.
Tanner Mangum: 24-33, 332 yards, 3 TD, 0 Int., 187.2 Pass efficiency rating.
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