Nebraska’s home opener, Memorial Stadium, Mike Riley’s first game with the Huskers – and BYU senior wide receiver Mitch Mathews stole the show.
Mathews caught a 42-yard Hail Mary pass from backup Tanner Mangum on the final play of the game to give BYU a 33-28 win over Nebraska this past Saturday.
After that? Elation.
“I’m not going to lie: It was pretty cool,” Mathews said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “It was pretty spectacular to be a part of something like that. The ups and downs within a game – Taysom Hill is one of my best friends and to see him go down, it’s one of those games where we thought we had them in the first half. We thought we could have buried them earlier. And to have it come down to a Hail Mary, I’m a senior, a leader on the team, that ball was just fluttering in the air – I got to come down with it. It was a great environment. First game of the year. It was something that we needed to do to set the tone for these upcoming games.”
From Doug Flutie to Kordell Stewart, college football has an obsession with Hail Marys. Mathews’ heroic catch, Scott Ferrall observed, will be replayed until Mathews is dead – and probably even longer than that.
“That’s pretty cool,” Mathews said. “it means a lot. It was one of those plays where, a Hail Mary, anytime that’s ever completed, it’s going to be something that’s really remembered. It’s something that’s huge for us. We have an independent schedule, so every game is very, very important. To come down with that ball, it was pretty spectacular. Tears were shed, hugs were given, mom and dad were in the stands, brother’s watching on TV. You just got to come down with that ball. I hope it’s remembered. I hope to be a guy that people look to and say, ‘I was there. I remember that. I remember how cool that was.’ So it was pretty special to be a part of it.”
Mathews finished with three catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns, the first one coming on a 15-yard reception that gave BYU a 24-14 lead just before halftime. It was a nice snag by Mathews, but Hill’s effort on the play was more impressive.
That’s because he threw the touchdown with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot.
“Thats’t the type of guy he is,” Matthews said. “He’s a freak athlete, an incredible friend, an incredible guy, an incredible player. Every time he steps on the field, he plays like a Hesiman candidate, which is what he is. He ran for a touchdown on the play with a broken foot. Ever since then, he said it was not the same. He came back in and he hurt it again and they just said, ‘We have to pull you out. You’ll be limping for the rest of your life.’ So they made him come out even though he said, ‘Shoot me up, tape me up and get me back in there.’ What a tough kid to keep playing with a broken foot, a torn ligament in his foot, and still to be able to find me in the end zone with a broken foot – the guy is spectacular.”
BYU (1-0) has three high-profile games upcoming. The Cougars host No. 20 Boise State (1-0) this Saturday, play at No. 13 UCLA (1-0) on Sept. 19 and play at Michigan (1-0) on Sept. 26.