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Monday, September 22, 2014         

COLLEGE FOOTBALL


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Truly special

"You can't let your guard down at all" against Boise State's special teams

By Jason Kaneshiro

POSTED:


When Hawaii's special teams units take the field on Saturday, the Warriors know they'll need to be ready even if they aren't certain what to expect when the Broncos break the huddle.

Boise State's reputation for trickery has largely been cultivated by the Broncos' crafty play calling on offense over the years. But they've regularly created an advantage with deception in the kicking game as well.

"With Boise State you know there's going to be a fake coming, you can't let your guard down at all," said UH safety Richard Torres, who also plays on the punt return and kickoff coverage teams. "It's going to be a great challenge for us discipline-wise."

Special teams has played a critical role throughout the series between the Warriors and Broncos, and the variety of looks the Warriors could see on Saturday is more than enough to keep UH assistant Chris Tormey busy in preparing for the schools' final Western Athletic Conference meeting.

"We know they're very good on special teams, so Coach Tormey is having us stay disciplined, working hard, getting extra time in," said freshman John Hardy-Tuliau, who has emerged as a playmaker for the Warriors on special teams and is entering his first encounter with the Broncos. "We're just cleaning it up so we can be as sharp as possible."

Boise State bedeviled the Warriors with blocked kicks over the past decade and successfully executed a fake punt in its win over Hawaii last year with punter/kicker Kyle Brotzman completing a pass to tight end Jason Robinson to extend a drive. The Broncos later pulled off the same play at a pivotal moment in their win over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.

SIGNIFICANT PLAYS

Boise State has won eight of its past nine meetings with Hawaii, with special teams often playing critical roles. The following are a few examples:

» 2001: David Mikell returns a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in BSU's 28-21 win.

» 2002: Chris Carr blocks a punt and recovers it in the end zone and BSU rolls to a 58-31 win.

» 2005: Orlando Scandrick returns a blocked field goal 69 yards for a touchdown. Daryn Colledge blocks a potential tying PAT, and Scandrick runs it back for a 2-point PAT return to preserve a 43-40 win.

» 2006: Scandrick returns a botched PAT attempt 88 yards for 2 points in BSU's 41-34 win.

» 2008: BSU's Kyle Brotzman misses two field goals, but averages 60 yards on three punts, including a 75 yarder to pin the Warriors deep in a 27-7 win.

» 2009: Brotzman completes a 28-yard pass to Jason Robinson on a fake punt to extend a drive in the Broncos' 54-9 win.

Boise State's efficiency on offense has necessitated just 17 punts. Of those, Tormey counted 10 different formations the Broncos lined up in prior to the snap.

Since the second-ranked Broncos (7-0, 3-0) last played on Oct. 26, a 49-20 win over Louisiana Tech, they'll have had ample time to add some wrinkles by the time they host the Warriors (7-2, 5-0) in a matchup of the only teams still unbeaten in league play.

"They execute in so many facets of the kicking game," Tormey said. "They always have a lot of fakes, a big package of tricks.

"A lot of teams don't vary their stuff as much as they do. ... We have to be solid against a fake, but yet we want to put pressure on the punter and have a return scheme. It's tough when they do as much as they do and when they have so many formations."

While the Broncos' schemes can complicate matters, focusing on the fundamentals figures to be a key for the Warriors.

"What we see on game film most likely we're not going to see when we play them," Torres said. "We have to be ready for anything, and we just have to concentrate on our assignments and go back to the basics."

Brotzman normally handles both the place-kicking and punting duties, but has been limited in recent weeks by a leg injury and didn't play against Louisiana Tech. Brotzman, a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, is seven points away from breaking the WAC's all-time scoring record held by former Hawaii kicker Jason Elam.

When the Warriors kick the ball away, they'll try to contain Titus Young, who averages 25.3 yards per return and took two back for touchdowns last season. Chris Potter is the Broncos' top punt returner with an average of 14.2 yards on nine returns.

"We all know what his abilities are," Tormey said of Young. "If he gets a crease, he's capable of making big plays.

"They've always been solid on special teams ever since (former BSU coach) Dirk Koetter was there and they've only gotten better and they have better athletes."

UH's coverage units are coming off a win over Idaho in which the Warriors made three stops inside the 20-yard line but gave up big returns later in the game. Liko Satele blocked a field goal and Hardy-Tuliau recovered a muffed punt.





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