PROVO — Brandon Doman found a perch he can live with.
In Friday's 24-17 comeback victory over Central Florida and the Knights' Top 5 defense, the rookie BYU offensive coordinator took to the booth for the first time this season.
What he saw had to give comfort after a week of criticism in town and from fans.
He saw BYU's offense improve.
He saw BYU's defense make gigantic plays.
But he also witnessed the birth of a new aide in his quest to produce points — knockout plays by BYU's special teams.
The special teams players — the third tier of football for the Cougars Friday — were the guys who swooped through to save the day like comic book heros.
The perch for viewing these heroes? It was the cushiest of cushions for Doman's tush that's been under fire for a week.
He watched Cody Hoffman return a kickoff 93 yards for touchdown, the first such BYU play in 13 years, when Mike Rigel did a similar act against Hawaii.
On the play, Hoffman took off like a rocket, his legs pumping like pistons.
It was the fastest he'd run on any play in his Cougar career. It tied the game at 17-17 with 4:37 to play in the third quarter.
Hoffman's electrifying return, ignited an emotional feeding frenzy on BYU's sideline. It was the most fire and excitement Bronco Mendenhall's squad had displayed all season.
If BYU has turned things around heading into another home game against Utah State next Friday, the Hoffman return may be remembered as the pivot.
In the fourth quarter, Doman watched Riley Stephenson boom his longest punt of the season, a 67-yarder, that made Knight return man Josh Robinson turn and run towards his own goal line like it was a pass and he was a receiver. And he muffed it. That set up an easy 23-yard drive to score BYU's winning touchdown, a 6-yard jaunt by Bryan Kariya.
Doman watched BYU's defense wobble, then recover to make big play after big play in the crucial fourth quarter to preserve Kariya's score.
Doman watched Uona Kaveinga force a fumble and Jameson Frazier recover it. He watched Kyle Van Noy tip a pass by UCF's Jeff Godfrey inside BYU's 15 and corner Joe Sampson intercept to prevent a potential game-tying score with a few minutes left in the game.
He witnessed Van Noy sack Godfrey, coming from what seemeld like Pleasant Grove, to catch the talented, speedy quarterback for a huge loss as he left the pocket with under a minute to play and the Knights desperately doing everything possible to score.
What he watched is playmaking football at its very best, the thing ESPN loves to display.
What he saw is what ESPN hoped to see in his offense when they signed on as a partner.
After a painful 54-10 loss to Utah a week ago, on Friday, BYU's offense had a more palatable pace and rhythm. It was very noticeable. Jake Heaps looked more comfortable in the pocket and finished 16 of 34 for 133 yards and one interception.
"My performance wasn't that great, but we got the W," said Heaps. "More importantly, I can learn from it."
A key Friday night was that the Cougar run game came up with 127 yards, many of those on simplified power plays when Heaps and Company needed big plays.
Bryan Kariya led the charge with 53 yards on 14 carries and J.J. DiLuigi had a 5.4 yard average on 7 carries for 38 yards.
"We had to earn it," said Heaps. "They weren't going to give it to us. It was gratifying to see our guys make plays. It was good to see things go our way at critical points in the game."
Bronco Mendenhall said the decision for Doman to leave the field and go up in the press box was all his, and his alone.
Mendenhall said Doman's decision on the proximity to play calls came Friday.
"Brandon wants our football team to be better and wants to do the best job he can do. He struggled with that decision because he's been trying to get know his staff members and find what he could do. He has a strong personality and he thought may be best to look in the eyes of players and make that count so he decided to be on the field.
"On game day Brandon felt his vision of the field (from above) was something he wanted more of and had Lance Reynolds, with his calm resolve and perspective, go down on the field."
In defense of Doman, his offense, and Heaps against the Knights, BYU had very challenging field position in the first half with possessions that started twice from their own 11 and once from the 7.
The Cougars also played more than half the game without freshman receiver Ross Apo, who suffered a concussion right before BYU's first score — a field goal by Justin Sorensen that tied the game 3-3 with 6:19 to play in the first quarter.
To the point Apo left the game, Heaps had lost a player that had produced 100 percent of the Cougars' offensive touchdowns through three games.
"We haven't arrived, but it is a positive step," said Mendenhall, who said the victory that leveled BYU's season at 2-2 came just in time after a week where things were said that hurt his players and himself after the Utah loss.
"We all needed it," said the coach. "Anytime you play or perform or coach below your potential you are anxious to show to your self but to feel different in a more positive way."
Perches, plays and plenty of passion.47 comments on this story
That's what BYU displayed in the win over UCF.
"It wasn't easy but we found a way," concluded Mendenhall.