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PROVO, Utah (Sept. 6, 2004) -- BYU senior Matt Payne and senior linebacker Brady Poppinga have been named Mountain West Conference players of the week after helping the Cougars to a 20-17 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
MATT PAYNE -- MWC Special Teams Player of the Week Payne, one of just 10 players in the country who handles punting, kick-off, field-goal and extra-point duties, leads the Mountain West with a net punting average of 45.56 yards. The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Ray Guy Award candidate totaled nine punts for 421 yards, averaging 46.8 yards per punt, which ranks sixth nationally. On the night, six of Payne's nine punts landed inside the 20-yard line, while four of those six landed inside the 10-yard line. Only two punts were returned all night, one for eight yards and one for just three yards.
In one of the more memorable punts in BYU football history, Payne mishandled the snap from center John Denney. In what appeared to be certain disaster, Payne recovered the snap and ran to his right to avoid the Notre Dame rush. On a full sprint--in mid-stride--Payne booted a 58-yard punt, pinning the Irish on their own 2-yard line. Payne was also credited with a 63-yard bomb that stranded Notre Dame on its own 8-yard line.
While his punting alone was spectacular enough to win special teams player-of-the-week honors, Payne, who is also a Lou Groza Award candidate, scored a team high eight points in the Cougars' 20-17 victory. With 1:31 remaining in the first quarter, the Ogden, Utah, native connected on a 44-yard field goal to give BYU a 10-0 lead over the Irish. Nearing the end of the second quarter, Payne split the up-rights on a 53-yard field goal, equaling his career long. Interestingly, there have been only four field goals of 53 yards or longer in school history. Payne, who was named the Russell Athletic ESPN Player of the Game against the Irish, owns two of those four field goals.
After quarterback Matt Berry hooked up with freshman receiver Austin Collie for a 42-yard touchdown, Payne connected on the extra-point to give the Cougars a 20-3 lead with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter. That extra point moved him in to third place on the BYU all-time scoring list. Payne, now with 245 career points, needs 46 more points to pass Luke Staley for second on the all-time scoring list. Former kicker Owen Pochman is the school's all-time scoring leader with 333 points.
It is the fourth time Payne has been named the Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Week--his first since the 2002 season.
BRADY POPPINGA -- MWC Defensive Player of the Week During the first week of Fall Camp, Poppinga was moved from his familiar position on the defensive line to outside linebacker. Against Notre Dame, he wasted little time letting everyone know he was capable of playing that position just as well as he had played at defensive end.
On the very first play from scrimmage, Poppinga was credited with a tackle, stopping Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman. On the very next play, the 6-foot-3, 257-pound All-America candidate forced running back Travis Thomas to cough up the football. While Notre Dame recovered the fumble, Poppinga went on to have a stellar night, posting a career best 12 tackles, including seven solo takedowns. In fact, Poppinga led the Cougars in a suffocating performance, holding the Irish to just 11 total yards rushing. Following the first week of the season, BYU ranks third nationally in rushing defense.
During the first Notre Dame offensive series of the second quarter, the Irish appeared to be driving until Manaia Brown forced a fumble at the Notre Dame 49-yard line where Poppinga was there to recover the turnover.
Nearing the 10-minute mark of the third quarter, the Irish lined up on a fourth-and-two from the BYU 28-yard line. Poppinga ended the scoring threat with his first sack of the season -- a 10-yard loss for Notre Dame. Four plays after Poppinga's sack, Berry hooked up with Collie for a 42-yard touchdown to give the Cougars a 20-3 lead with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter.
On the night, Poppinga was also credited with three quarterback hurries. It is the first Player-of-the-Week citation for the Evanston, Wyo., native.
Since the league was formed in 1999, the Cougars have earned player-of-the-week honors in four of the six season-opening games. It is also the third time since 1999 two BYU players have earned the weekly honor in the same week.
Written by BYU Athletics Media Relations