Touchbacks on kickoffs don’t normally garner big cheers in college football stadiums across the nation.

But after Utah’s struggles with kickoffs last year, hearing the appreciation for the first touchback of the season didn’t surprise kicker Cole Becker.

“Just knowing the situation here really motivated me to come to a place that not only needed me, but wanted me.” — Utah kicker Cole Becker on his decision to transfer from Colorado to Utah

After transferring from Colorado this offseason, Becker says that he got messages on social media from Utah fans, pleading for touchbacks this season.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a touchback get cheered for, which was pretty cool. I definitely expected it,” Becker said. “... Awesome environment and just great to get the love.”

Becker was Colorado’s starting kicker the past two seasons, making all but one of his tries from 39 yards and in for the Buffaloes. Last season, he was even more accurate, making 11 of 13 tries, with one miss from the 40-49 yard range and one miss from 50-plus yards out. He made a 43-yard game-winning field goal in overtime against Oregon State in his freshman season.

But when Deion Sanders took over at Colorado, he brought change with him.

“We got a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me,” Sanders said in one of his first meetings with the players. “And it’s Louis (Vuitton).”

Sanders told Colorado’s players, who won just one game in 2022, to get ready to enter the transfer portal.

“I’m coming. And when I get there, it’s gonna be changed, so I want y’all to get ready to go ahead and jump in that portal and do whatever you’re gonna get because the more of you jump into (the portal), the more room you make because we bring kids that are smart, tough,” Sanders said.

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Through one game, Sanders’ strategy seems to have worked. After 71 players transferred out of Boulder, Sanders hit the transfer portal hard, along with bringing players from Jackson State, where he coached prior. The Buffaloes upset No. 17 TCU 45-42 in Fort Worth, Texas, behind a high-octane offense led by quarterback Shedeur Sanders and two-way sensation Travis Hunter.

Becker was one of the 71 Colorado players to enter into the transfer portal. Alejandro Mata, who kicked at Jackson State, followed Sanders to Boulder.

“The way that things were handled in that switch was not exactly how I would have liked to see it,” Becker told the Deseret News in the spring. “I won’t go too much into detail but I felt like a change was needed.”

The timing worked perfectly for Utah, which was in desperate need of a reliable kicker.

“Just knowing the situation here really motivated me to come to a place that not only needed me, but wanted me,” Becker said.

Entering the season, Whittingham said the comfort level in the kicking game had gone up. Becker had been meeting Whittingham’s barometer of 80% or better from 45 yards and had been booting the ball for touchbacks in practice.

As always, though, that has to translate to an actual game.

When called upon for a 51-yard field goal in his first attempt of the season near the end of the first half, Becker was ready.

“Just trusting in my capabilities and knowing that, I mean, we’re still at altitude. This place is very similar to me to Boulder. I was very comfortable coming in here,” he said.

Utes on the air


No. 12 Utah (1-0)
at Baylor (0-1)
Saturday, 10 a.m. MDT
Waco, Texas
TV: ESPN
Radio: ESPN 700/92.1 FM


Becker made it, putting Utah up 17-3 against Florida.

“That was a good feeling,” he said.

Up 24-11 with six minutes left in the game, Becker tried a 55-yard field goal. He missed it just left, but it spoke volumes about Whittingham’s trust in him. Whittingham made the decision to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal a few times last year due to misses by the kickers.

“Wish 55 would’ve gone. It was pretty close,” Becker said.

As for kickoffs, Becker booted the ball away five times, with touchbacks on three of those. Last season, the Utes kicked the ball off 96 times, with just 29 touchbacks (30%). At Colorado, Becker had a 74% touchback rate last year.

If Becker can keep making field goals and continue kicking the ball to the end zone, those cheers will keep coming from Utah fans.