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Punt block one of few Cougar highlights from home-opener

PROVO — Entering Saturday's season-opening game against Boston College, who would have guessed that BYU's special teams would set up its only score of the day?

Sophomore Bryan Kehl, who was playing in his first game since 2002 after returning from an LDS mission earlier this year, blocked a Johnny Ayers punt early in the third quarter. The ball landed out of bounds at the Eagle 25-yard line, giving the Cougar offense great field position.

BYU had 2nd-and-one from the 16 but couldn't punch the ball into the end zone. Jared McLaughlin ended up booting a 35-yard field goal, which turned out to be the Cougars' lone points in a 20-3 setback to Boston College.

"We have great confidence in our punt-block team," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "Coach (Patrick) Higgins has done an outstanding job with that unit. As they went out, we had suspected we could get one. The prior punts were safe punt where we had our defense on the field. That was the first opportunity where we had our punt-block team out there, and they did what they were supposed to do and what they were coached to do. That's one instance of players executing with a solid plan and doing it at a high level. That was the result."

ON THE DEFENSIVE BACKS: Throughout fall camp, the secondary was a giant question mark, especially with the number of injuries sustained by the defensive backs. Starting safety Spencer White, for instance, broke a bone in his hand early in camp, though he played on Saturday.

To make matters worse, on Boston College's first offensive play from scrimmage, cornerback Nate Soelberg went down while making a tackle. He suffered a back sprain but returned to the game shortly thereafter. Justin Robinson, a junior college transfer, came in for Soelberg while senior Chris Hale started at the other cornerback spot.

Linebacker Cameron Jensen was happy about the secondary's overall performance.

"They played well. There were a few mistakes, but I was pleased overall," he said. "We have a guy playing back there with one hand. I trust those guys behind me completely. I know they come day-in and day-out and work as hard as they can. I couldn't ask anything more."

OH-AND-11: With Saturday's loss, BYU extended its losing streak to ranked teams to 11 games. The last time the Cougars defeated a ranked team was in 1999, when they beat Colorado State in Provo.

NOT-SO-FAST: The loss marked the first time since 2000 that BYU failed to win its season-opener. The Cougars defeated Tulane in 2001, Syracuse in 2002, Georgia Tech in 2003 and Notre Dame in 2004.

The last time they lost a season-opener was against nationally ranked Florida State in the Kickoff Classic in Jacksonville, Fla. It was the first time BYU lost its home-opener since 1997, when it lost to nationally ranked Washington.

TEW LEADS THE CHARGE: Senior Kyle Tew was chosen to carry the "Y" flag out of the locker room and onto the field prior to the game.

"I didn't choose him. The players chose him," Mendenhall said. "Kyle Tew is a tremendous worker and a tremendous person. He's working on the scout team as a fifth-year senior. He's already graduated, and he's a great example. The players respect him because of his effort and hard work. They selected him to carry the flag out today. It wasn't my choice. But I think they chose wisely."


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com