Our field-goal block team played really hard and they went after those guys hard. We came close on two or three kicks of blocking them. I think that affected Nebraska’s kicker as the game went on. That may be one of the reasons he missed those kicks at the end. —BYU special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga
PROVO — BYU’s special teams came up big in last week’s remarkable 33-28 win at Nebraska.
Senior place-kicker Trevor Samson booted a pair of field goals, including a 41-yarder, while the Cornhuskers’ Drew Brown missed from 40 and 41 yards.
Brown’s last miss happened with 48 seconds remaining, just before Cougar quarterback Tanner Mangum engineered the game-winning drive.
“Trevor Samson comes in and hits two big field goals. If we don’t hit those, the game’s a little bit different,” said special teams coordinator Kelly Poppinga. “Our protection needs to be better. Our field-goal block team played really hard and they went after those guys hard. We came close on two or three kicks of blocking them. I think that affected Nebraska’s kicker as the game went on. That may be one of the reasons he missed those kicks at the end.”
Poppinga said the special teams had a nice start, but he wants to see progress moving forward.
“A lot to improve on, but for the first game, we did some good things. We have 10 goals that we try to reach every single game,” he said. “We reached seven of those 10. If we make a tackle on that last kickoff, we reach that goal as well.”
Punter Jonny Linehan, playing in his first college football game, averaged 51 yards per punt, drilled a 77-yarder and placed two kicks inside the 20-yard line. Micah Hanneman, playing in his first game at BYU as a punt returner, had an 11-yard return.
“Overall, I would give it a B-minus,” Poppinga said of the special teams performance. “A lot to improve on and a lot of room to grow.”
HILL AND MANGUM: Boise State coach Bryan Harsin expressed his respect for BYU quarterbacks Mangum and Taysom Hill.
“They’re both former Idaho guys that have done really well,” he said. “I played in Idaho as well. I’m happy for those guys. We recruited Tanner. He did a nice job in his recruitment and developed himself into a higher profile player through that process.”
FRESHMEN RECORDS: At Nebraska, Mangum had an impressive debut as a true freshman.
Now he’ll be chasing freshman QB records this season owned by former Cougar Jake Heaps. Heaps started 10 games as a freshman in 2010 and posted a 6-4 record. He holds the true freshman record at BYU for wins, passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns.
BACK ON BOARD: BYU will get back two defenders this week who were suspended for the Nebraska game — safety Kai Nacua and linebacker Sione Takitaki.
“He’s a very dynamic player. He’s a great pass rusher,” Poppinga said of Takitaki. “That’s where he’s going to have the biggest impact, in the pass game.”
EXTRA POINTS: Boise State’s secondary features cornerback Donte Deayon, a former high school teammate of BYU running back Jamaal Williams, who withdrew from school before fall camp The Broncos won their road opener last season at Connecticut, 38-21, snapping a two-game losing streak in road openers, after falling to Washington and Michigan State in 2013 and 2012, respectively BYU is 7-3 under coach Bronco Mendenhall in home openers and 57-32-1 all-time in home openers.