KANIHO FINDS END ZONE ON SPECIAL TEAMS, COMES UP BIG ON DEFENSE
Boise State linebacker Kekaula Kaniho (28) hauls in an interception during the first half of Friday's game against Colorado State.
BOISE — Kekaula Kaniho returned to a familiar place Friday night: The end zone. The sophomore nickel, who scored two defensive touchdowns last season as a freshman, got on the board for the first time this season in Friday’s 56-28 win against Colorado State. While both of Kaniho’s touchdowns last season were defensive, this one came on special teams touchdown. Kaniho picked up a fumble by teammate Avery Williams on the Boise State 26-yard line and took it in for a 74-yard score on the last play of the first quarter. The touchdown gave the Broncos a 21-0 lead. “When I looked up, I just saw the punter in front of me and I saw a blocker, I don’t even know who it was,” said Kaniho. “From there I kind of took off and tried to run off the block. In addition to his touchdown, Kaniho also had an interception down by the Bronco goal line in the second quarter, preventing the Rams from getting onto the board. “Before that our D-Line did a good job of pressuring the quarterback and confusing him,” said Kaniho. “I just did my job trying to help Tyler (Horton) out in that window. I looked up and saw the ball.” Kaniho had played in all 14 games for the Broncos during his freshman season, finishing with 32 tackles and four pass breakups. But his two highlights on the season came in wins at nationally-ranked San Diego State and in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon. “He has a great luck factor where he usually gets the ball in his hands there’s usually not people around him,” joked Williams. “He’s a pretty fast guy and pretty intelligent. He knows what to do. Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, it’s a great opportunity for us.” His 34-yard fumble recovery in the first quarter against the Aztecs gave Boise State a 14-0 lead, while his 53-yard interception return in the bowl game gave the Broncos a 24-0 lead over the Ducks in the second quarter. Kaniho also had a forced fumble last season. “A guy like Kekaula, and you name these guys, Avery, Kekaula, those guys, they’re always around the ball,” said Boise State coach Bryan Harsin “And good things happen. The ball came out and Kekaula’s around the ball. He picked it up and scored. Now you go back to San Diego State, he did the same thing.” He’s seen more time in the rotation, thanks in part to an injury to safety DeAndre Pierce. Pierce suffered an injury to his spleen against Wyoming, and has missed the last Broncos’ last three games, including Friday night. In addition to his regular starting role at nickel, Kaniho has also filled in at safety during Pierce’s absence. Friday night he got his first turnover of the season and first touchdown of the year. For Kaniho, it was a long time coming. “It’s really fun,” said Kaniho. “I’m really just doing my job and the ball ended up in my hands. I couldn’t tell you how." He scored five defensive touchdowns as a senior at Kahuwu (Hawaii) High and was selected as the ALL-USA Hawaii Football Team Defensive Player of the Year. “His mindset, if you watch his highlight tape in high school, that’s all he did,” said Harsin. “He’d just score and score and score. So I thought we might put him on offense.” While he didn’t get the start Friday night, he has started in five games so far this year to go along with his five starts as a true freshman. After finishing the game with four tackles, he now sits at 22 on the season, which ranks sixth on the team.