BYU’s Kickoff Team Will Be Area Of Focus For Sitake Moving Forward

Sep 4, 2022, 12:54 AM | Updated: 12:54 am
Kalani Sitake, BYU Football, USF...
BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake wants to see improved play on the kickoff unit. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FL – During the second quarter of action for BYU football against USF, the Cougars found themselves up 38-0.

After Jake Oldroyd hit the 39-yard field goal to put BYU up by 38, the next time BYU’s offense had the ball with a chance to pursue points, their lead dropped to 24.

BYU didn’t touch the ball until the second possession of the third quarter, which set up USF to have back-to-back offensive possessions.

Between those possessions for BYU’s offense, the Cougars kickoff team allowed USF return specialist/wide receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. to open up the third quarter with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

It was one of the only low points for No. 25 BYU, who rolled to a 50-21 victory against a USF program that handed the Cougars a loss three years ago.

BYU football gave up a kick return for a touchdown to USF

USF did have another highlight in the special teams department later in the third quarter. Brian Battie returned a kick 38 yards that he fielded at USF’s own four-yard line. The 38-yard return put USF at the 42-yard line to begin a drive that seven plays later resulted in another touchdown.

Those two scores likely prevented BYU from having the luxury of turning to backups such as quarterback Jacob Conover or other players deep on the travel roster.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake knew that the kickoff team was an area that he wanted to see improvement, despite the blowout 29-point win.

“Obviously, there’s some things that we can fix, but credit to South Florida, they have a great return team and we tried to test it way too many times,” said Sitake in his opening press conference statement. “I think they were number one in the country last year and they’ll probably be number one right now after what we gave up. But you know, that’s on the coaches. So we have to figure out a way to improve our kickoff team.”

Kick it to the back of the endzone?

Sitake brought up the issues with the kickoff unit again in his press conference. KSL Sports then asked Sitake, “Why not kick it into the back of the endzone?”

Sitake paused, then said, “Yeah, we’ll give it a shot.”

The former BYU fullback, who is now one win away from victory No. 50 in his head coaching career with the Cougars continued with his thoughts on why they chose to kick the ball the way they did. BYU was having Oldroyd kick the ball inside the five-yard line.

“For the first part, we were doing pretty good, and we were getting the ball inside the 25. I’ll take the loss on that one. I’ll take the blame on it,” Sitake said to KSL Sports. “We believe in our kickoff team and have them work through it. But maybe that’s an error on my side. Maybe it’s the ego in me and just trying to force our guys. I can learn from that too. So I just want the guys to know that I believe in them. With the game that it was, I didn’t just want to all of a sudden squib the ball or try to kick it in the back of the endzone. …But, I’ll get better.”

Overall, a good night for BYU football

Ultimately, if BYU’s biggest worry is two blown coverages in the kickoff team, it speaks to how good of a night it was for Sitake’s squad. But if they want to reach the heights they’ve experienced the past two years, with double-digit victories, cleaning up these sort of mistakes will be necessary.

BYU’s next opportunity to show improved play on the kickoff unit will be Saturday, September 10 against No. 10 Baylor in Provo.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU’s Kickoff Team Will Be Area Of Focus For Sitake Moving Forward