PROVO — There’s one big question hovering over the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo heading into Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. kickoff against 10th-ranked Wisconsin at LaVell Edwards Stadium (ABC; KSL Newsradio).
Will Tanner Mangum be the starting quarterback, or will injuries defer the role to backup Beau Hoge?
Coaches have hinted at an answer, but there are no certainties at this point.
Mangum rolled his ankle on the final drive of the Cougars’ 19-13 loss to No. 24 Utah last Saturday, and his status in practice has been shrouded in mystery. The junior quarterback from Eagle, Idaho, was spotted in a walking boot and scooter on BYU’s campus this week.
“Until we can get more confirmation, we don’t know,” head coach Kalani Sitake said Monday, reminding reporters that BYU doesn’t comment on injuries unless they are season-ending. “It’s hard to get confirmation since we don’t do anything Sunday.”
A walking boot does not necessarily mean an injury is severe; they are often used by physicians and athletic training providers to prevent the need for invasive surgery by aggravating low-grade injuries.
Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer told BYUtv’s Spencer Linton during his weekly radio show that Mangum received treatment on his injured ankle Sunday from the team’s athletic training staff, and expects him to play in the Badgers’ first-ever trip to Provo.
“As far as I know right now, everything is ready to go,” Detmer said.
Still, players have been coached not to comment on Mangum’s status. When a university student reporter asked linebacker Butch Pau’u if Mangum practiced Tuesday, the defensive team captain stuttered before sidestepping the question.
“You’re going to have to talk to coach Detmer,” Pau’u said. “We don’t know.”
Detmer was not made available to the media Tuesday, along with the rest of the offense. Pau’u and assistant head coach Ed Lamb addressed reporters during a limited availability session in the student-athlete building, rather than on the practice field.
Detmer and offensive players will address the media following practice Wednesday.
BYU practices are off-limits to the media during the season. Only fall camp and spring football are available for viewing opportunities, per athletic department policy.
Through three games in 2017, Mangum is completing 54 percent of his passes at a 5.2 yards per attempt clip. He’s thrown for 466 yards and two touchdowns, but also four interceptions — including three against the rival Utes.
If Mangum cannot play, Beau Hoge is the primary backup quarterback. The redshirt sophomore and son of ESPN analyst Merril Hoge hasn’t played since Nov. 21, 2015. His most detailed action as a BYU quarterback came in a 45-38 win over East Carolina as a freshman, when he relieved an injured Mangum and completed just one pass for 9 yards with an interception before Mangum returned to pull out the win.
Hoge fared significantly better in practices during the spring and fall. But it’s hard to project how he would do in a game situation, especially with limited opportunities in 2017, Detmer said.
“They aren’t getting a ton of reps; Beau gets a few here and there. But it’s not the same level as the starter,” he added. “They need to be mentally with it, and they’re on the headset during the game … they know the expectations.”
Hannemann’s back, but for how long?
One player who will return against Wisconsin is safety Micah Hannemann. The Lone Peak product did not dress against Utah after being ejected for targeting in the shutout loss to LSU the week prior.
Sitake said after the game that Hannemann’s game-long suspension was planned, and Lamb, who also coaches the safeties, noted that the staff continues to take aim at reducing the chance of a targeting penalty after Hannemann missed time in his second game of 2017.
“We do a face-up tackling drill, and he’s part of that drill on a daily basis,” Lamb said of Hannemann. “Some guys have more of an instinct to duck their head on contact, and he has to work through that.
“The good news is the penalty is costing us, and it’s costing him playing time. He’s got to use that motivation, discipline himself, and stay in the game so he can help us.”
'Embrace the challenge'
Wisconsin is a top 10 football team nationally, but the Badgers really excel at downhill running.
Two games into the season, Bucky’s squad ranks 13th nationally with 591 yards on 99 rushes. The Badgers averaged 5.97 yards per carry, and freshman Jonathan Taylor has already amassed 310 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
And that’s exactly the kind of matchup Pau’u looks forward to facing.
“You expect a hard-nosed runner who breaks tackles … and we expect them to bring it and for us to bring it,” Pau’u said. “We embrace the challenge.”
Editor's note (Sept. 13, 2017): Offensive coordinator Ty Detmer declined to address the status of Mangum's injury during his weekly media roundup Wednesday morning in Provo.
Detmer jokingly deadpanned that offensive lineman J.J. Nwigwe, a part-time tight end, would be the starter, then said he wouldn't comment on injuries or which quarterbacks practiced this week.
"I can't say anything right now," Detmer said. "We just have to see what happens come Saturday.
"All of the guys on our team have been practicing for a month of training camp. We're not going and changing everything and try to invent a new offense in a week."