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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BYU Football Top 10 One Hit Wonders: #4 - Ethan Pochman

Football coaches like to say that special teams is an equal one-third of the game, but it isn't uncommon for coaches to resort to unconventional methods to fill those spots. This is especially true when it comes to placekicking. Brigham Young Cougars head coach LaVell Edwards found his team lacking a placekicker in 1996. Rather than find a high school senior and recruit him to kick for BYU, Edwards found a senior from the BYU soccer team and converted him into a football player.

In 1992 and 1993, Ethan Pochman played the game known internationally as futbol while studying film and photography at BYU. In 1996, he started playing what is known in America as football. Adding Pochman to the team generated very little buzz. Nothing special was put in the media guide, and there aren't even any urban legends about how it all went down. BYU football had much bigger concerns going from 1995 to 1996 than to document Pochman's journey to become a football player.

By the end of the season, everybody was just glad that he did. Pochman had the most impressive kicking season that BYU had ever seen. His complete inexperience with the game before that year only added to it.

It was a rough start, however, for Pochman. He missed two of his first four point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempts. He also missed his first field goal attempt. BYU still won the season opener against Texas A&M, 41-37, so there was no harm done.

Pochman did make his final PAT attempt against the Aggies in the Pigskin Classic, and that got him on a roll. He wouldn't miss again. He finished the year with 63 successful PATs, which was one short of the then school record for most in a season. 

Kicking field goals was a little trickier. Pochman was a perfect three for three on field goals the next week against Arkansas State, but just 1 of 3 the following week in BYU's only loss of the season. He would miss one field goal attempt in each of the next three games as well. However, during the second half of the season, Pochman was 11 of 13 on field goals.

That hot streak for field goals got started with a 51-yard boot against Tulsa. It was tied for the fourth longest field goal in BYU history. 

Pochman successfully kicked a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter against New Mexico (game 4), and it ended up being the difference in the game (17-14), especially since BYU blocked a field goal attempt by the Lobos late in the game that would have tied the score. 

Against the rival Utah Utes, Pochman was a perfect three for three on field goals, including two in the first quarter to help BYU jump out to a 20-0 first half lead. However, his crowning moment came one week later in the WAC Championship game.

BYU was 12-1 and ranked no. 6 in the national polls. With just enough time for one final play, BYU trailed 25-22. Edwards called on Pochman to kick a field goal and send the game into overtime. He made the 20-yard kick, and BYU had new life. When the BYU defense stopped Wyoming on the first possession of overtime, all the Cougars needed was a field goal to win. The offense set up a 32-yard kick for Pochman from the middle of the field. Just like the last one, it went in.

With four field goals and two extra points in the WAC Championship, Pochman accounted for exactly half (14) of BYU's 28 points. It was the fifth time that he had scored double digits in a single game (Arkansas State, 15; Utah State, 12; Tulsa, 13; Utah, 13). The 14 points ran Pochman's season total to 123 points, which blew away the school record for most points in a season.

Before 1996, BYU had seen some very explosive offensive fireworks. Points have flowed like water off of Bridal Veil Falls. Yet, no one had ever scored more than 96 points (Waymon Hamilton, 1981) in a single season. No kicker had ever scored more than 91 (Earl Kauffman, 1990). Pochman had 96 points after the Hawaii game. At season's end, he had 123. To this day, it is still--by far--the most points scored by a placekicker in a single season.

Most points scored in a single season was just one of the many school records Pochman set. Most consecutive PAT conversions in a season and career (61), and most field goals made in a single season (20) were the others.

Adding to the accolades, Pochman was named second team All-WAC. He was the WAC Mountain Division Special Teams Player of the Week twice (Arkansas State, Hawaii). He was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award. 

1996 Stats
Field Goals: 20 of 28 (71.4%)
Extra Points: 63 of 65 (96.9%)
Points: 123 (63 extra points, 60 field goals)

Note: Pochman scored five points in the Cotton Bowl on 2-2 PAT, and 1-2 field goals.

Top 10 One Hit Wonders
10. Ray Crandall (1971), John Kormylo (1978)
9. Shane Hunter (2010)
8. Reynaldo Brathwaite (2003)
7. Ezekiel Ansah (2012)
6. Ben Cahoon (1997)
5. Ryan Hancock (1992)
4. Ethan Pochman (1996)
3. Ted Nelson (1970)
2. David Mills (1984)
1. Jay Miller (1973)

The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at bluecougarfootball@gmail.com

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