Earl Kauffman has booted any preseason fears the Cougar coaches may have had about the kicking game right out of the end zone - as he does most of his kickoffs.

Kauffman has taken over the national lead in punting after outdueling last week's leader, Washington State's Jason Hanson. Last Saturday Kauffman averaged 48.5 yards on four punts; Hanson averaged 46.5 on six.The typical Kauffman punt is a rocket line-drive that causes punt-return men to turn around and catch the ball over their shoulder on the dead run. They then have to turn around to head back upfield, giving BYU's punt-return team more time to get downfield and make the stop.

Kauffman says he can kick the high-atmosphere, long hang-time type of punt, but that isn't the coaches' choice. "I can go for height if I want, but they've been telling me to kick it out of there," he says.

So far, its worked. He's averaging 49.1 yards per punt, with an average return of 6.2 yards. BYU's opponents have averaged 42 yards on their punts, with average returns of 3.6 yards. The net result is 42.8 to 38.4 in the Cougars' favor.

Kauffman's been equally impressive with his howitzer kickoffs. Only four of 20 have been returned this season.

A junior from Converse, Texas (that's near San Antonio), Kauffman said that punter and placekicker were the only positions he played in high school. The school he attended was so big that he was never called on to do anything but kick.

His long-term goal? The National Football League. "I'd love to try it," he says. "It'd be better than having to work for a living."

TIME CHANGE: The time for Saturday's BYU-San Diego State game has been changed to 1 p.m. to accommodate CBS, which decided to make it the main game of the week. The Cougars and Aztecs will be seen in 75-80 percent of the nation; the rest of the country will see Alabama-Georgia.

DETMER DATA: Against Washington State, he had his 15th straight 300-plus yard passing game . . . At his current pace, he should pass Marc Wilson on the BYU career passing yardage list sometime during next week's Oregon game. He needs 584 more yards to take over fourth place . . . He is ranked No. 1 in the nation in average passing yards per game (413.7), No. 2 in points responsible (23.3) and total offense (412.0), and No. 8 in pass efficiency (151.3).

TURNOVER TROUBLE: If there's any cause for concern in BYU's play, it's the turnover-takeaway ratio. The Cougars have cut down on penalties since the season opener in El Paso, but they continue to give up the ball at a higher rate than opponents. BYU has lost five interceptions and six fumbles, while getting only two interceptions and two fumbles. That's an 11-4 difference, and Coach LaVell Edwards knows what a dangerous difference it can be. "If someone had said we'd be minus seven in turnovers after three games and be 3-0 . . . " He didn't say it, but he'd think they'd gone goofy.

Incidentally, BYU averaged 2.95 takeaways in the 1980s, tied for fifth best in the country with Penn State.

DEFENSIVE STATS: Linebacker Alema Fitisemanu has taken over the lead in defensive points from tackle Rich Kaufusi. Fitisemanu has 59 points for the season; Kaufusi is second at 48. Next are cornerback Brian Mitchell, 47; linebackers Rocky Biegel and Jared Leavitt, 40 each; and safeties Norm Dixon and Josh Arnold, 39 each.

SHORT STUFF: The win over Washington State gave the Cougars their first 3-0 start since the 1984 national championship season . . . ESPN's Tim Brando called running back Peter Tuipulotu "The Tongan Terror" . . . Defensive Coordinator Dick Felt, who underwent triple-bypass surgery a few weeks ago, is expected to resume his duties in two or three weeks . . . Backup safety Derwin Gray suffered a broken wrist in the Miami game but played against WSU wearing a cast.

ESPN's Lee Corso said this: "Ty Detmer is the Joe Montana of college football. You can see it in the team - they never give up. As long as he's in there, they're going to have a hard time losing to anybody except Wyoming."