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Idaho’s kicking team works as precise unit

Cade Coffey, a redshirt freshman from Rathdrum, has connected on 7 of 8 field-goal attempts. (Brad Puckett / University of Idaho)
Cade Coffey, a redshirt freshman from Rathdrum, has connected on 7 of 8 field-goal attempts. (Brad Puckett / University of Idaho)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

One subset of Idaho’s football team is not only upholding a pillar of scoring from seasons past but has taken the team’s “raise the bar” motto to heart.

In just five games, Idaho’s kicking team has become as dependable a part of the offense as All-American Austin Rehkow was the past four seasons.

Long snapper Luke Hyde, a sophomore tight end from Emmett, Idaho; holder AJ Woodin, a junior quarterback from Beaverton, Oregon; and kicker Cade Coffey, a redshirt freshman from Rathdrum, have worked together to connect on 7 of 8 field-goal attempts – with a long of 46 yards – and 11 of 11 on points after touchdowns.

“From the very first kick, I was fully confident,” Woodin said. “We are all composed when we go out there.”

Woodin has already received one of college football’s most obscure awards, the Mortell Holder of the Week Award, named for former University of Minnesota holder Peter Mortell.

Woodin earned the nod against South Alabama when he held for two PATs and three field goals, including one in which he had to corral a low snap.

Coffey is a two-time recipient of the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.

“Coffey is playing great,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino said.

The trio only began working together last spring. Coffey emerged from preseason competition to succeed Rehkow as Idaho’s kicker and punter. Woodin was the backup holder last year. Hyde, who long-snapped in high school, only resumed the skill in spring practice.

Now the three are united in a method that should carry them through this year and next.

Coffey developed his kicking stroke playing youth soccer in England, where he grew up, and at kicking camps after his family returned to the U.S. when he was in the eighth grade. Coffey’s father, Travis, was a tight end and linebacker for Idaho in the early-to-mid-1990s.

The kicking team’s specialized skills require them to believe in each other.

“Trust the process,” Hyde said.

The extent to which they have developed their intricate process stands in contrast to the haphazard ways in which they came to it.

Hyde learned to long-snap at a high school football camp and hoped that would be his ticket to playing football in college before he filled out to tight end size.

Woodin also began holding in high school. Kickers kicked off a small rubber pad then. The only instruction Woodin got was: “Put the ball down on the black pad. Just put it down there. It doesn’t matter how.”

Coffey began to see a future as a kicker when he was the only one on his eighth-grade team who could consistently kick PATs.

Their roles in a football game are unique. A kick either goes through the uprights or misses. There is no next down.

“We’ve got one chance,” Coffey said. “We have to make every opportunity count.”

Seeing officials with upraised arms signaling a good kick is the core satisfaction of their job, but Woodin could indulge in the holder’s fantasy of salvaging a bad snap by rising up and throwing a pass for a first down or touchdown. He is, after all, a quarterback.

“Please don’t,” said Hyde, and Woodin assures him he never thinks in those terms.

It may help that they are friends off the field. Coffey and Woodin share a love of video games, and Woodin and Hyde are bass fishermen.

So far, they have practiced their art in mostly favorable conditions. There was the 7-hour, lightning-delayed game at South Alabama, but the field remained dry. The weather was fine for Idaho’s game at Western Michigan, and the other three games have been in the benign environment of the Kibbie Dome.

Coffey said the most difficult challenge so far was probably kicking off grass as long as a pasture at a scrimmage in Lewiston last spring.

Last December, as he was losing his footing on a frozen Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Rehkow kicked a field goal against Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, won by the Vandals 61-50. If a similar situation arises, Idaho’s new specialists are confident they will also come through.

“We’ve got to finish the story,” Woodin said. “Bowl game, conference championship. Those are our goals.”

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