BYU football: Cody Hoffman's kick return a game changer
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — As a receiver, Cody Hoffman had a relatively quiet night Friday.
The sophomore only had three receptions for 24 yards coming off his 138-yard monster game against Utah.
But — and this is one of those game-changing buts — the 6-4, 208-pounder cranked up the volume inside of LaVell Edwards Stadium with a special teams play that led to BYU's 24-17 win over Central Florida.
And the mohawk-sporting speedster from Crescent City, Calif., might still hear ringing in his ears from the roar that erupted during his touchdown-scoring 93-yard kickoff return.
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said the play, which made it 17-all midway through the third quarter, was "about as high as it goes" on the momentum-shifting scale.
"It elevates us beyond belief," Mendenhall said, "and it also stings on the other side, so it's a double-whammy."
The fans, many still reeling from last week's 54-10 shellacking by Utah and still on the edge of their seats for good Big 12 news, went bonkers.
So did the struggling home team, which used that big play to propel itself past the Conference USA squad.
"I felt it shift a lot, because they just came off a touchdown and it kind of put us down," Hoffman said. "But the momentum swung right back around once I took it to the house."
For BYU, this TD return was long overdue — and much-needed.
For one thing, no Cougar had returned a kickoff to paydirt since Mike Rigell raced 96 yards for a score against Hawaii in 1998. On top of that, BYU's special teams hadn't scored a TD since McKay Jacobson's punt return score in 2006.
While snapping that dubious 13-year-old streak was nice and all — and provided some fans with trivia knowledge — the current ramifications were far more significant.
UCF scored a go-ahead touchdown with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter, and the Knights seemed to have recaptured momentum in the second half.
Then Hoffman happened 13 seconds later — just like he thought it might when BYU special teams coach Joe DuPaix and the Cougars noticed on film how UCF only sent five guys to the wide side.
Feeling prepared and pumped up, Hoffman broke through a huge initial hole and found 75 yards of open space between himself and the north end zone.
"I got past the first set of guys and then my lead blocker took out the kicker," Hoffman said. "And then I knew I had it from there."
So did an excited BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, whose offense was about to enter the field trailing by a touchdown.
"Our guys just made amazing blocks," Heaps said, "and Cody just made a great play, just using his wheels."
Fittingly, Hoffman's heroics came a couple of hours after he led the team onto the playing surface as the night's honorary flag-bearer.
With his results, BYU might not wait long to let him carry the symbolic cloth again.
Hoffman was honored that his teammates chose him to do that. And he's also thrilled to be the Cougar to have duplicated Rigell's feat.
"Kickoff returns are hard to do for a touchdown," Mendenhall said.
Added Hoffman: "I didn't know exactly how long it was (since the last TD return), but I knew it was a long time. I wanted to change it since last year and finally I had a chance today."
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