First College Game a Big One

If there ever was a player that received a baptism by fire in the sport of football, it was BYU offensive guard Braden Hansen. Hansen had been away from football for three years and has never played a down at the college level, but that all changed after assumed starter Jason Speredon went down with a season-ending injury during fall camp.

After serving a two-year LDS mission, Braden Hansen thought he would ease his way into an eventual starting role on the offensive line. But his acclimation back onto the field would be put in to hyperdrive, as the redshirt freshman received the starting nod against one of the top defensive fronts in the country when the Cougars played third-ranked Oklahoma in what was essentially a road game.

"It was incredible, and just the emotions coming back to me since I was in high school [were strong]," said Hansen. "I hadn't played football on the field in over three years, but to be that well prepared by our coaches and then to play against the athletes that we did like Jerald McCoy and some of the other guys on the Oklahoma defensive line [was great]. There was just so much emotion and I thought we did really well against their defensive line."

One can reasonably understand the wide range of unsettling emotions Hansen might have been going through. He had to put his freshman skills on display in front of a national audience in the first game ever played in the new Dallas Cowboys' stadium. However, Hansen prepared himself by talking to a few experienced teammates and thus receiving some emotional clarity.

"I talked to a couple of guys about their first starts," Hansen said. "I talked to Max [Hall] and Matt [Reynolds] about their first start, and asked them about the emotions that they went through. I didn't know if I should be excited, scared or nervous. They just talked me through it and said that after that first play you'll just be playing the game you love. They both kind of said the exact same thing. Max said that after he threw his first pass his first game everything just flowed and he was ready to play. Matt just said that after he got his first big hit the emotions just settle down and you just play the game."

Though it looked to be a daunting challenge, playing against Oklahoma was a great experience for Hansen.

"I can't think of a better way to start my career," said Hansen. "Sure, we weren't perfect by any means. We had a lot of mistakes: fumbles, interceptions and penalties. We just kept fighting through all of our trials and it was awesome. I think this experience sets me off on the right foot. Playing against some of the best athletes in college football as a freshman and be able to compete with them I think sets me off mentally for the rest of my career knowing that I can compete against the best."

Although not perfect - and Hansen would be the first to admit he still has room to grow - his performance was instrumental in helping the team move down the field during the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score.

"That last drive we had was something I'll never forget, just how we gelled together as an offensive line," said Hansen. "Oklahoma had some pretty good blitzes and stunts that they were doing and we just gelled together and were able to pick up all the blitzes and gave Max enough time for us to score. That was huge."

Hansen credits his early success to the coaches and how they prepared the team.

"We had been studying Oklahoma since July as an offensive line group," Hansen said. "I think the coaches prepared us mentally and physically as well as helping us to fully understand what they were going to do up front. The coaches did a great job in helping us to not only prepare for what Oklahoma was going to bring to the table but also what their strengths were up front. We were ready for them."

Hansen's second college start will come against the Green Wave of Tulane. After facing possibly the top defensive front in college football, Hansen has to feel very confident in his next assignment.

"I'm looking at their inside tackles, looking at what their strengths and weaknesses are," said Hansen. "I'm preparing for Tulane much the same way I prepared for Oklahoma. I'm looking at what they do on their run plays and what type of things they do on passing plays. I try to figure out what I can do to be effective against them. Tulane has a great defense and they're fast and quick, and we're going to work just as hard and just as fast to prepare for Tulane as anybody. I feel we're taking it one week at a time and one game at a time."

Two of the Tulsa defenders Hansen will face on the right side of the Green Wave defensive line are 6-foot-2-inch, 246-pound junior defensive end Logan Kelly and 6-foot-2-inch, 288-pound sophomore defensive tackle Cedric Wilson.

"They use a front four and do things very similar to Oklahoma," Hansen said. "They're great up front. They're fairly big and stout but what they bring to the defensive line is speed. We're going to have to fire off the ball and run the ball down their throat."

Another player that saw his first Division-I start last Saturday against Oklahoma was Cougar cornerback Brian Logan. In the interview below Logan talks about playing against the Sooners as well as where he received his inner strength from.


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