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Thursday, June 20, 2013

BYU Football Top 10 One Hit Wonders: #7 - Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah

As stated from the outset, the focus of this top 10 was inspired by one player on last year's Brigham Young Cougars' football team: Ezekiel Ansah. His story about going from not knowing anything about football before 2010 to meteorically rising to the top of the NFL draft has been told and retold countless times already this year. Nevertheless, his play on the field in 2012 is worth another look.


Ever since the 6-foot-5, 271 pound Ansah joined the football team as a walk on in 2010, there were rumblings about him. Die hard fans started daydreaming that one day this mammoth man who could run like a gazelle would wreak havoc on the field. Ansah had the measureables of a highly coveted SEC recruit. There was just one catch--he didn't know a lick about football.

For two years, Ansah learned the game. Little by little his play on special teams and at the end of blowouts increased. By the end of the 2011 season, Ansah had played in 18 games and made a total of 10 tackles. As 2012 approached, head coach and defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall and the rest of the defensive staff spoke increasingly in favor of the Accra, Ghana native, but there were no guarantees how much he would play.

The 2012 Cougar D was loaded with talent and experience along the defensive line and at outside linebacker. When opening day came, Ansah was not a starter, but he did get some quality playing time starting with BYU's first defensive series of the game.

That's when Ansah started turning heads.

On its first possession of the game, Washington State was steadily moving the ball down field. The red Cougars had reached the blue Cougars’ 18-yard line. On 2nd and 6, Washington State threw a screen pass to a running back. Ansah had sniffed it out, and was there to make the tackle, but it was no normal tackle.

Ansah showed off his super strength and speed. He had slightly overrun the play, so when he collided with the ball carrier, his feet were way out in front of his body. Rather than hold onto the ball carrier and bring him down with him as he fell to his back, Ansah defied the laws of physics. He dug his heels in, stood himself back up, turned the ball carrier around, and slammed him to the ground.

The play was a five-yard loss. (Click here to watch the play.)


Ansah finished the season opener with a career high in tackles (3), and tackles for loss (2). He also had one pass break up.

Although Ansah set a new career high for tackles (4) against Utah in game three, his big breakout wasn't until the next week at Boise State. 

With two minutes to play in the first quarter, Boise State dialed up one of their specialties: a fake punt. All the Broncos needed was two yards. The snap went to the upback. He was stopped cold at the line of scrimmage by big no. 47.

Had that been the only tackle Ansah made, he still would have had an impact on the game. Unfortunately for Boise State, Ansah was just getting warmed up.

The Boise State offensive line had not allowed a single sack all season. That ended with 3:22 to play in the first half when Ansah took down the Broncos’ quarterback for a 5-yard loss.

In the middle of the third quarter, Boise State was starting to pull away from BYU. Three straight turnovers by BYU had given Boise State a 7-0 lead, and put the Broncos in a position to really put the hammer down on BYU with a touchdown following Michael Alisa’s fumble at the 1-yard line. Ansah was the answer for BYU’s turnover woes.

Ziggy went beast mode on Boise State. On first down he got into the back field and tackled the ball carrier for a one-yard loss. On second down he did it again, this time with the help of Brandon Ogletree.

By this point, Boise State had learned its lesson, and ran away from Ansah on third and fourth downs. It was too late. Ansah’s clutch plays had given the momentum back to BYU and the Broncos turned the ball over to the Cougars without scoring a single point.

Although BYU came up short on the score board, Ansah played the game of his life. He displayed the skills that his coaches had seen in practice that made them utter “Ansah” and “NFL” in the same breath. He had a career high 8 tackles (6 solo), 1 sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1 pass break up. All of these stats were team highs.

Following the Boise State game, Ansah replaced Eathyn Manumaleuna in the starting lineup. Manumaleuna had suffered a season ending injury. Now Ansah would terrorize opponents from the first play to the last.

Ansah had five tackles in each of his first two starts. He also had two sacks and two quarterback hurries in the second start against Utah State. The Aggies had no answer for Ansah, and he was a huge factor in the Cougars shutting down the high powered Aggie offense.

On national television against Notre Dame, Ansah had six tackles and one tackle-for-loss. The next week against Georgia Tech, Ansah led the team in tackles and matched the career-high eight tackles that he had at Boise State. It was footage from the Georgia Tech game that ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay repeatedly referred to when he raved about Ansah being a top five pick in the NFL draft. McShay said Ansah was so physical that he wouldn't blame the Yellow Jackets fullback for quitting football after that game.

The final home game of the season was against Idaho. Ansah had one tackle-for-loss (TFL) in that game to complete a streak of seven consecutive games with 0.5 TFLs or more. He also had two pass breakups, which started a streak of four consecutive games with at least one pass breakup. 

Going into the bowl game, Ansah had already had a remarkable season. However, to top it off, he got his first career interception and first forced fumble to help BYU win its fourth consecutive bowl game.

Ansah finished the season with 62 tackles. Only one BYU defensive lineman since 2001 has had more tackles in a single season (Jan Jorgensen had 77 in 2007). Only once in BYU history has a defensive lineman had more pass breakups in a single season than the nine by Ansah in 2012 (Travis Hall had 10 in 1994). 

The 2012 BYU defense was the best in school history. It was third in the nation in scoring defense (14.0 points per game), second in the nation in rushing defense (86.9 yards per game), tenth in passing defense (179.2 yards per game), third in total defense (266.1 yards per game), first in 3rd down conversion percentage (26.5%), and second in red zone scoring percentage (64.3%). The defense had several great players, but Ansah definitely deserves some of the credit for helping this unit reach elite status.

2012 stats: 62 tackles (35 solo), 4.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 6 QB hurries, 9 pass breakups
2010-11 stats: 10 tackles, 1 QB hurry, 1 pass breakup

Top 10 One Hit Wonders
10. Ray Crandall (1971), Jon 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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