A question I have gotten a lot this BYU football season, especially this past week: Why doesn't Adam Hine get more carries?
Hine has carried the ball three times for seven yards in three games. Of course, he's made his mark as a kick returner. Unfortunately for the Cougars, three of those big returns, including one that went for a touchdown against Utah, were called back by penalties.
Assuming sophomore Jamaal Williams (concussion) won't play, and indications are strong that he won't, expect Hine to get more carries when the Cougars take on Middle Tennessee State at LaVell Edwards Stadium (7 p.m., ESPNU). Carries should be distributed almost equally between Mike Alisa, Paul Lasike and Hine.
"Everyone's reps have increased in practice," Hine said on Tuesday. "So that means mine should increase as well. We will see what happens this week … I am always looking to help offensively, special teams, whatever I can do. I am always eager to get out there no matter what."
As for the kick returns that have called back, Hine said he believes the KOR unit has got that figured out and will "play more cleanly" tonight against the Blue Raiders.
"Everyone has to have good technique when they are blocking to get the job done," he said.
Speaking of BYU's special teams, the man who coaches them has had his hands full this season, what with the blocked punt against Virginia, the return-killing penalties and the uncertainty surrounding kicker Justin Sorensen, who had made five straight field goals to open the season before missing his first attempt against the Utes.
Kelly Poppinga acknowledges that special teams play has been inconsistent, but believes overall it is improving.
"I would say by far and away, Saturday night was our best night," Poppinga said. "We did a great job on punt team. Our net punt was 39, Utah's was 36. So we beat them in that category. JD [Falslev] with his return at the end gave us a chance, or at least put us back in the game. So I would say our punt team was a huge positive in the game.
Punt return team obviously changed the game. Our kickoff coverage team has been consistent all year. They've done a great job, and then I would say our KOR team has been great, if they don't have any penalties. We have had three huge penalties, one in every game, and so that has been a major focus this week in making sure we are getting on our blocks, and we are not holding, and we are not pushing guys in the back, because when we do our job, and do our job legally, we are going to take one to the house.
As everybody has seen, we have taken three now past the 50, but all with stupid penalties. So we need to be smart, tough, physical football players on our KOR team, and if we do that, we are going to be great.
Adam Hine is a great returner, probably one of the best we've had back there. We have a lot of faith in him and the guys blocking for him, and we are going to get one out this week."
Lots of talk around Provo this week on whether the holding penalty on Alani Fua that brought back Hine's kickoff return for a touchdown against the Utes was a correct call. Here's Poppinga on that:
"The one that was tough, that Adam took back for a touchdown, Alani kinda got ran over, and as he was going down, he kind of just pulled the guy with him, which almost never gets called. The guy was looking right at it, and he called it, because he pulled the guy to the ground, and so I think that goes 50-50. That happens to our guys all the time. They get pulled down and nothing is called, so not too mad at that one."
The Cougars are arguably playing without their second- and third-best defensive players, with junior cornerback Jordan Johnson blowing out a knee in fall camp and senior linebacker Spencer Hadley getting himself suspended for five games for violating the honor code.
No question, though, that the team's best defensive player is trying to pick up the load. Senior Kyle Van Noy hasn't racked up the stats -- he only has one sack -- but he has been as disruptive as ever, Poppinga said.
"I think we were saying today he has 14 quarterback hits, or hurries. That's pretty impressive for three games. He only has one sack, and so the quarterback is getting the ball out of his hands fast. I think of those 14 hits, the quarterback has only completed the ball twice," Poppinga said. "He is being disruptive, it is just not showing up in the stat sheet as a fact.
He is a really good player, and he's making a lot of plays for us, so we need Alani to come along with him and be consistent, because in the first two games he was very productive, and in this game he took a step back, I thought, and so he needs to be more consistent in this next game.
And when those two dudes are going, and we have two guys flying off the edge, we are a really good defense. So we need to keep that going for those two guys."
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