Saulsberry stepped in for two-year starter Ben Criddle, as Criddle was suspended for the game for missing a team meeting due in part to some health issues. In his stead, Saulsberry proved equal to the task, as the cougar defensive coaches made few - if any -schematic changes when he played in place of Criddle.
"It was similar to Cole Miyahira filling in during the bowl game against a quality team and a potent passing offense," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We made no allowances for him. We put him in there, expected him to do well, and he did."
Saulsberry learned of the news that he'd be starting after this past Thursday's practice. He met the news with excitement and with confidence, knowing he could fill in effectively.
"I'm a player and you always want to play," said Saulsberry. "I just want to help this team whenever I can, and to have the opportunity in a greater role was something you want as a player. Replacing Ben is tough since he's such a great player, but I feel I did my role well on Saturday."
Since arriving at BYU as a junior college transfer, Saulsberry spent last season in spot duty on special teams with few reps as a cornerback. While he wasn't ready to play effectively when arriving last year, Saulsberry has worked as hard as anyone on the team this past offseason to get to the point where he could contribute as he did on Saturday.
"Andre is awesome," said Kehl. "It's been tough for him not being LDS and maybe not being used to this environment here, but he stayed all this summer and worked as hard as anyone on the team, harder than most, and you can see how it paid off on Saturday. He did a great job filling in for Ben Criddle, which isn't easy to do."
Although Saulsberry wasn't perfect, he teamed up with Kayle Buchanan to limit New Mexico's two prolific receivers considerably in regards to production, neutralizing New Mexico's opportunities downfield. New Mexico's wide receivers proved to be small factors in the Lobo offensive production in large part due to Saulsberry's play.
"He helped us win the game," said Mendenhall. "It was neat as a coach to see a young man who has worked so hard to have an opportunity and to perform like he did."
For Saulsberry, it was just a matter of working within the system.
"I just stayed within the game plan and did what the coaches asked," said Saulsberry. "There are a lot of things I could have done better. I need to work on my feet and my positioning better. If I did that I probably could have made some plays and maybe even picked off some balls, so I'll work on that."
Saulsberry being able to fill in without the defense missing much of a beat goes to prove that BYU is making strides to improve on their mid-major status as a collegiate program.
"That's what separates the mid-majors from the elite," said Kehl. "That's what we're trying to get out of, is that mid-major category. There's other things we have to do, but one of those things is depth in order to compete with the big boys, so having guys like Andre who can fill in just moves us closer."
In the meantime, Saulsberry recognizes that his role will again be limited, as Criddle aims to return after the bye week and play against UNLV. Despite that, Saulsberry remains optimistic and humble, and is willing to help out the team whenever and wherever he can.
"I just want to help this team win," said Saulsberry. "In whatever role they have me playing, I just want to be solid in that role. Whether it be backing up or starting, it's all about winning games."
Yesterday's practice saw a new kicker banging through some impressive long field goals and kicking it deep on kickoffs. So who was this new kicker? None other than Quinn Gooch.
Gooch spent a lot of the casual practice session teeing up the ball and booting through at least two 45-yard field goal attempts with yards to spare. So was head coach Bronco Mendenhall impressed with his starting safety's kicking prowess?
"I was hoping he'd pull something when kicking," quipped Mendenhall regarding Gooch. "I don't know whose idea that was, but he looked pretty good."