Flashback: Big Cleats To Fill

The Brigham Young Cougars need to replace 323 pound defensive lineman Hebron Fangupo. Needless to say, at 323 pounds, that is a big body and cleats to fill. However, the hole left by Fangupo is nothing compared to the hole BYU had to fill 25 years ago.

In 1987, BYU had not one, but two, defensive linemen to replace. Both were All-Americans, and both would be NFL first round draft picks. One was Outland Trophy winner Jason Buck. The other was Shawn Knight.

As seniors, they combined for 119 tackles, 17 tackles-for-loss, 25 quarterback hurries, 28.5 sacks, and 1 pass defensed. They anchored a defense that finished sixth in the nation in rush defense (88.8 yards per game), and tenth in total defense (277.8 YPG). These were, indeed, some big cleats to fill.

Steve Kaufusi and Craig Patterson were the lucky ones tasked to fill the void. Kaufusi was a senior in 1987. He transferred to BYU in 1985 after a stand out junior college career at Dixie College. Patterson was a sophomore. He was a member of the 1983 BYU team before serving a two year mission in Hawaii. Patterson redshirted the 1986 season.

Kaufusi had a good year. He made 54 tackles, 5 tackles-for-loss, 11 quarterback hurries, 5.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception. Patterson contributed with 36 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 2 quarterback hurries, 3 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. That makes combined totals of 90 tackles, 7 tackles-for-loss, 13 quarterback hurries, 8.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 4 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception.

Statistically, Kaufusi and Patterson’s production was down, but that was to be expected. Overall, they deserve credit for rising to the daunting challenge that they faced. Their reliable play in the trenches helped BYU improve from 8-5 in 1986 to 9-4 in 1987. The four fumble recoveries and the one interception that they accounted for represents 10 percent of the 50 takeaways by the Cougar D that year, which was the best in the nation.

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