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BYU's Sitake defends decision on 4th-and-19 fake punt: 'I like taking risks'

PROVO — One of the most memorable — or forgettable — plays in BYU’s 28-27 loss at Boise State on Oct. 20 was the Cougars’ attempt to execute a fake punt on fourth-and-19 from their own 5-yard line.

Punter Jonny Linehan took the snap deep in BYU’s own end zone and was tackled at the 2-yard line. Fortunately for the Cougars, Boise State was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play, giving it the ball at the BYU 17-yard line.

But the Broncos failed to capitalize as the drive ended with a missed field goal. At the time, BYU trailed the Boise State, 14-10, in the second quarter.

Coach Kalani Sitake was widely criticized for his decision to go for it on fourth down, needing 19 yards for a first down, so deep in the Cougars' own territory. On Monday, Sitake defended the decision as his team prepares to visit Cincinnati Saturday (1:30 p.m., MDT, CBSSN).

Video: @BYUfootball coach Kalani Sitake talks about taking risks and the failed fake punt on 4th-and-19 pic.twitter.com/usX38YNqHl

— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) November 1, 2016

“We thought it was going to be there but the execution wasn’t perfect,” he said. “It was a little odd because of where it was at. I like taking risks. It didn’t cost us. It was one of those things where everybody says, well, what could have happened. But imagine if it worked? I look forward to the next chance we can do it. I’m pretty sure Cincinnati is watching film and saying, ‘watch the fakes.’ That’s a good time to run one too, when they’re expecting it. I’m just trying to put it out there for (Cincinnati) coach (Tommy) Tuberville. We thought we had something there. Obviously, it didn’t work out. But it didn’t cost us any points. I know people can be critical of it but it didn’t cost us anything. They missed a field goal.”

Boise State adjusted its alignment before the punt, different from what it had been showing before, and the Broncos stopped the play easily.

Sitake added that he could run that same fake punt play again at some point.

“We look forward to another fourth-and-long and proving some people wrong,” he said. “Or not. We’ll see … Why practice it if we’re not going to do it?”

Linehan is a former rugby All-America at BYU, so the coaching staff has faith in his ability to run the ball.

“We have a really athletic punter in Jonny. He’s a great rugby player,” Sitake said. “He knows how to run. He has a lot of speed. We’ll see if we can take a chance on some other play.”

The Cougars are coming off a bye week and Sitake feels good about the way his team spent the break.

“The best part about it, we had a lot of guys get healed up. We hit the weight room real hard and the guys got caught up in academics and everything,” Sitake said. “It came at the right time, especially for the health of our team. We got some extra time to do recruiting as a staff and also do some extra preparation time for Cincinnati. We took advantage of the extra time that we had.”

Offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch said the bye week “brought a little bit more hunger to the group. Sometimes during the season you get a little beat up … We just conditioned all week, all we did was run and lift. (Monday), everyone was ready to hit and go over the schemes. We’re more prepared to play football this week.”


BYU (4-4) at Cincinnati (4-4)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT Nippert Stadium

Cincinnati, Ohio

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com