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Cougars keep picking opponents apart

BYU's Bryan Kehl (41) returns an interception Saturday as Corby Hodgkiss (14) comes in to block during the Cougars' rout of Eastern Washington. Hodgkiss also had a pick, which he returned for a touchdown.
BYU's Bryan Kehl (41) returns an interception Saturday as Corby Hodgkiss (14) comes in to block during the Cougars' rout of Eastern Washington. Hodgkiss also had a pick, which he returned for a touchdown.
Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — BYU linebacker Bryan Kehl thinks it's a good trend to continue.

For the third straight game, Kehl nabbed an interception, the latest coming in the Cougars' thrashing of the Eastern Washington Eagles on Saturday.

"We might as well make a habit of it," Kehl said, talking about BYU's defensive performance in which he and two other teammates recorded picks.

That total included a 39-yard interception for a touchdown by defensive back Corby Hodgkiss on EWU's opening drive.

"It was just one of those opportunities," Hodgkiss said. "He (Eagles quarterback Matt Nichols) kind of gave me a gift, and I took advantage of it."

Even against a lesser opponent like Eastern Washington, that kind of start relieves pressure, Kehl said.

"It never hurts when you start the game with a pick-six," he said.

While Hodgkiss got a score, Kehl wasn't as fortunate, a point not lost on the senior.

"I was in my zone and he threw it there," Kehl said. "I grabbed it and kept going, and I really wanted to get into the end zone, but I didn't. The tackle only hurt because I didn't get there all the way."

Overall, the Cougar defense — which held the Eagles to just 42 yards rushing — controlled the game, something that Kehl said was missing in BYU's losses to UCLA and Tulsa.

"It was a great performance, and if we would have managed it like we did tonight all season, we might be sitting here undefeated," Kehl said.

Defensive back Quinn Gooch — who had BYU's other interception — dismissed the notion that the win didn't mean as much because of the opponent.

"It's never a given that you're going to get a win," he said. "You're not just going to walk on the field and get the victory."

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall was complimentary of the defense as a whole.

"I thought we capitalized on good field position, and that was created by special teams and defense," he said.

Mendenhall was especially impressed with Kehl and emphasized how much his diligence during the week is translating to improved play on the field.

"Bryan's been working hard and he's been intercepting the ball at a higher level in practice," Mendenhall said.

Although winning by 35 points and allowing the opposing offense to get into the end zone just once, junior linebacker David Nixon knows there's room for improvement.

"It's a win, but we've got some things to fix," he said. "We didn't show a lot of wrinkles today. We just went out and played our basic package, and we went out there and played our football."


E-mail: cpeterson@desnews.com