Provo • Robbie Buckner learned Saturday night why he is a defensive back, and not a receiver. The BYU senior dropped an easy interception in the first half of the Cougars' 52-13 win over Idaho, then atoned for the mistake with a nice diving interception in the second half.
Buckner also discovered on that cold, snow-filled night that all those years of practicing, of sitting on the bench game after game, were worth it.
The 5-foot-10, 176-pounder from Ashdown, Ark., found out on Monday that he would get the start at field corner against the Vandals because sophomore Jordan Johnson had been suspended for one game. It was just the second start of his career. His first was as a freshman back in 2009, against Utah State.
"It was kind of unreal, just because I have been here so long. I have been on the team since 2006 and I don't think it has sunk in with me yet, just because I have been here so long and every Saturday I am here," he said. "By the time the season is over, maybe it will have sunk in with me."
Buckner was even more grateful to get a chance than usual because he almost didn't get a chance to play this season. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer during the summer and sat out of preseason camp. But the cancer regressed and he joined the team in early September.
"I have been waiting forever for that [interception]," he said. "As soon as I got here, I've wanted one. You know, you don't get those opportunities too often, but when you get them, you got to take advantage of them. Luckily, I got two of them."
Buckner will go back to his role as a backup to both Johnson and boundary corner Preston Hadley this Saturday when BYU travels to 8-2 San Jose State (8:30 p.m. MST, ESPN2), but could see more action than usual because starting free safety Joe Sampson was booted off the team..
"He did really well," coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "He got beat on one pass, a double move, where he actually read it and was on top of it. It was just underthrown, and the guy came back and caught it. … But he really played hard and was assignment-sound. So I was really impressed."
Backup linebackers Uani Unga and Manoa Pikula did not practice Monday due to injury. Like Buckner, Unga had his first career interception against Idaho.
Offensive lineman Brock Stringham (tonsillitis) practiced Monday, while center Braden Hansen (groin tear) did not. Mendenhall said he is "hopeful" that all four players will play on Saturday against the Spartans.
Receiver Cody Hoffman is the FBS Independent offensive player of the week and kicker Justin Sorensen is the FBS Independent special teams player of the week. Hoffman caught nine passes for 108 yards and three touchdowns. Sorensen made all seven of his PAT attempts to extend his streak to 68 straight PATs without a miss, a school record. The old mark was 67 straight and had stood since 2004.
BYU at San Jose State
P Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • ESPN2