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Ground game propels BYU over Hawai’i 30-20
HONOLULU – A season-high 285 yards rushing propelled BYU football to a 30-20 win over Hawai’i Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
"It’s something we can build off of," BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. "The goal was to win this game for the seniors and create something we can build on for next year. I thought a lot of young guys stepped up and I’m looking forward to those guys in the offseason."
BYU had 451 yards of total offense and a season-high 285 yards rushing. Squally Canada ran for 113 yards on 17 carries – all in the first half, including 99 yards in the first quarter. He scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career and had over 100 yards for just the second time. Austin Kafentzis added 98 yards on 18 carries while Riley Burt had 13 carries for 75 yards.True freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow completed 14 of 23 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown.
Corbin Kaufusi led the Cougar defense with six tackles and two tackles for loss. He also had one sack, forced fumble and pass breakup. Zayne Anderson blocked a PAT and had two tackles. Fred Warner finished his BYU career with five tackles.
BYU put points on the board during its first possession, driving 85 yards down the field in 2:33. Canada had three carries for 68 yards on the drive, including a 40-yard touchdown run. Kicker Rhett Almond hit the extra point to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 12:27 on the clock.
Late in the first quarter, Critchlow was sacked and fumbled at the 42-yard line. Hawai’i’s Solomon Matautia recovered the ball returned it to the end zone as the Rainbow Warriors evened the score, 7-7 with 4:42 left in the quarter.
Critchlow connected with wide receiver Jonah Trinnaman on a critical fourth-and-12 for a gain of 18 yards, setting up Canada’s second touchdown of the game. Canada then rushed for two and four yards on separate carries and scored on the latter as BYU regained the lead early in the second quarter, 13-7, but missed the PAT.
After defensive lineman Merrill Taliauli recovered a fumble to thwart Hawai'i's drive, Almond missed a 26-yard field goal wide left with two seconds left in the first half, sending the teams into the break with BYU up 13-7.
Both teams remained scoreless for much of the third quarter. Matt Bushman caught a 37-yard pass, energizing the BYU offense. A few plays later, Critchlow found fellow freshman Neil Pau’u for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 1:39 left in the quarter. Andrew Mikkelsen’s extra point was good as the Cougars extended their lead, 20-7.
Hawai’i recovered a fumble on a punt return 25 yards from the end zone to conclude the third quarter. The Rainbow Warriors capitalized on the turnover, scoring on a 15-yard pass with 12:23 in the fourth quarter. BYU’s Anderson blocked the extra point, the first blocked kick of his career, maintaining the 20-13 score.
Mikkelsen sent his first career field goal 35 yards through the uprights to put BYU up 23-13 with 6:21 on the clock to give the Cougars a two-score edge.
Riley Burt ran 11 yards untouched into the end zone for his first career touchdown with 3:46 left, increasing the BYU’s advantage, 30-13. Burt had two carries during the three-play drive for 32 yards.
Hawai’i responded with a touchdown of its own two minutes later on a three-yard pass to trail 30-20 with 1:48 to go.
BYU recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock to secure the victory in the final game of the year.
Cougars travel to Hawai’i for season finale
PROVO, Utah – BYU football will play its season finale this week at Hawai’i on Saturday at 4 p.m. HST/7 p.m. MST at Aloha Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.
Live radio coverage can be found on the BYU Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which will be broadcast on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143 KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. It will begin at 2 p.m. HST/5 p.m. MST.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage with Countdown to Kickoff starting 3 p.m. HST/6 p.m. MST. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour or more after the game depending on the timing of the game.
BYU (3-9) vs. Hawai’i (3-8)
Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017
Kickoff: 4 p.m. HST/7 p.m. MST
Aloha Stadium (50,000)
SERIES NOTES. BYU and Hawai’i are facing off for the 30th time. The Cougars have a 21-8 record against the Rainbow Warriors. BYU is undefeated at 9-0 in Provo against Hawai’i, but playing the Warriors on the island has been a more even series, with the Cougars holding a 12-8 record. The last time the two teams met, BYU blanked Hawai’i 47-0 in Taysom Hill’s first start at quarterback. The last time in Hawai’i, the Cougars won 41-20 in 2011 behind a career performance from quarterback Riley Nelson with 363 yards and three touchdowns.
ALMA MATER COACHES. For the fifth time at BYU this season, both head coaches in the matchup are coaching at their respective alma mater. Nick Rolovich played two seasons at quarterback for the Warriors in 2000-01. Kalani Sitake was a fullback at BYU in 1994, 97-2000. Rolovich and Sitake are among 21 FBS head coaches coaching at their alma mater.
COACHES ON THE PLAYING FIELD. Cougar fans may not want to remember what Rolovich did to BYU as the quarterback that led Hawai’i to a 72-45 upset of the undefeated No. 9 Cougars in 2001 at Aloha Stadium. Rolovich threw for 543 yards and a record eight touchdowns against BYU. In that same game, Cougar running backs coach Reno Mahe had 250 yards of total offense, including 181 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 14 receptions.
REGULAR SEASON NOTES. BYU has won its last six regular-season finales. The Cougars are 8-2 in the final regular season game of the year over the past 10 seasons. This is also just the fourth time BYU has played a 13th regular season game after doing so in 2001, 1996 and 1985 (does not include conference championship games).
HOMECOMING OF SORTS. Several coaches and players have family in Hawai’i, along with ties to the local community and Polynesian heritage. Head coach Kalani Sitake grew up in Laie, Hawai’i, along with several other staff members. BYU has more than 40 Polynesian players on the current roster.
INJURY BUG. BYU has had 37 different players miss significant time with an injury this season. Of those 37, 25 have been members of the two-deep and 13 have been projected starters.
HONORING LAVELL. Legendary hall of famer and beloved head coach at BYU for 29 seasons, LaVell Edwards, passed away on Dec. 29, 2016. The always steady and humble coach will be honored in several ways throughout the season, including the team wearing a uniform patch featuring his classic stoic profile he displayed for decades on the Cougar sidelines.
The following quotes are from BYU’s post-practice media availability on Monday:
Head coach Kalani Sitake
We're back on our last week now, and basically have nothing else but this game this season. The focus will be on trying to get this win, sending the seniors out on a win and setting the tone for next season and something that we can work off of. That's been the main focus. Looking back in the film just confirmed a little bit of what I said after the game on Saturday.
Balance between enjoying Hawaii and focusing
We decided to leave and go to Hawai’i on Wednesday night. Looking at our history in Hawai’i, we've looked at all the different times we've been successful and times that we've struggled, and a lot of the times we've done well is when we arrive Wednesday evening.
The goal is to go win the game. This is a regular game. It's not a bowl game where there's a lot of time to have a lot of entertainment. We'll try to make the best of it as we're there and try to not have too much idle time. We'll have our regular practices on Thursday and Friday there, but you're in Hawai’i, so you let them have some time where they can just enjoy the beach a little bit, but that's because we're there all day.
I think it's important for our players to feel settled and have a little bit of a holiday on Thursday with Thanksgiving, and then move forward and try to win this game. The goal is to win the game, that's the ultimate goal and that's what we're focused on right now.
What playing at Hawai’i means to program
A lot of the Polynesians on the team have connections there and have family there, and Hawai’i is kind of like the gateway to the United States. There are a lot of people who have roots there. More than anything, we have a lot of family and fan support there, too. The Church is strong in the state of Hawai’i, and I anticipate there will be a lot of fans at the game just like we've seen on the road and at home. Again, senior day didn't go well for us this weekend, but we have one more last game to send our guys out as winners, and then just as importantly moving forward and trying to set the tone for next season. That's the ultimate goal for us right now.
What you’ve seen from the Rainbow Warriors
They've had some struggles this year too, but I think they run the ball well. I've known Nick Rolovich for a long time and I know his style of football. He's been around and he understands the game and he knows how to put points up. They have a really good running back, and they have guys that care about winning, too. The stuff that I'm saying is the same stuff they're saying to their guys, too. They're trying to build for next year and trying to send their seniors out the right way, and we're trying to do the same thing. We have a common goal and it's just a matter of who can get that accomplished on Saturday.
I remember being a kid and going to Aloha Stadium, and it was wild cheering for BYU in that stadium and having the type of support that we have there. It's been fun. Looking forward to keeping this game that we've had in the past, and I know they'll be here next year. It's going to be fun to go to Hawaii, but it will be even more fun if we win the game.
Appreciating little successes more
We've been preaching gratitude and appreciation for where they're at and giving credit to the people who got them there. It's fitting that it's Thanksgiving week and it's the last game for us this season. I think there can always be a good spirit of gratitude. It's nice that Thanksgiving is there to remind us once a year, but truly Thanksgiving should be every day. Being thankful that you're alive and you're in the place that you are. There aren’t a lot of complaints other than we just need to win more football games, and I think we have an idea of how to get that done.
Junior defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi
Getting ready for the game
The mentality is that we have a lot to do still. It’s the end of the season but there is so much to do.
What in the team dynamic needs to change?
Our team is really close, everyone loves each other but a big part of that is making sure it translates to a product on the field. I think there are definitely things that as a team we need to look over and be hard critics of ourselves.
Benefit for winning last game going into the off season?
I think it is definitely important; it’s a little springboard. If you can win this game, it sets us off on the right foot to get our minds right because we will be back after the next week.
Treating Hawai’i as a bowl game
We know this is the last game of the season and our seniors won’t have another game to play because there isn’t a bowl game. I know a lot of people think we will treat this like a bowl game and go have fun, but it’s actually quite the opposite. This is a legitimate thing and this will be a game that will help us decide how we change in the offseason.
Do you think there will be a change in the offseason preparation?
I definitely see things that we can tweak but I wouldn’t say that our preparation in the offseason for the year set us up completely for the season that we’ve had. I think coming into this year, we prepared really well and a lot of guys got stronger and were ready but as the season wore on, there were injuries and just execution in general. There are definitely things that we will tweak for the off season but we will have the same mentality.
Sophomore offensive lineman Thomas Shoaf
The end of the season
It's kind of crazy. I was just talking to a couple of our guys and this is their last week, their last Monday, and I was just thinking about last year talking to those guys and how quick the turnaround has been. It does not feel like 52 weeks but it's flown by and we're going to make the most of it.
What they need to do going forward
I think it's all about buying in. We've got a great strength program and I think we've got a pretty good offseason plan. It's worked well in the past and everybody individually has to buy in and make the most of it. That comes down to not missing a rep in the weight room and being on time and making sure all of those little things matter.
The Hawai’i game
It's just another game. It's not a bowl game, it's just a regular season game and we're going there to win. Obviously, that's our priority.
Looking to next season
We've got a lot of guys coming back and we've got a lot of guys coming back that weren't able to help us this season due to injury. Another year of experience under everyone's belt will definitely help us improve. I have no lack of confidence for next season. I definitely think we can turn it around.
Freshman tight end Matt Bushman
This upcoming game is really important. Just to finish the season off with a win, everything feels better when we win and it's been a tough season. We've had adversity. If we can just finish off, send the seniors off with a win and help them have that good energy. After UNLV, everyone felt so good and so positive. If we can go out in the same manner, everyone is going to be so much happier.
We just talked with Coach Sitake this morning and he just told that is really important that we finish this season off with a win. That we don't go and think that Hawaii is just going to be a vacation and be a lot of fun, but know that it's business trip. There are many ways why we could go out, have fun and slack off, but that is what we cannot do. Just the way the season has been, we can't just go out and mess around the last game of the season. We have to show everyone, we have to show and prove it to ourselves that we want to go out and win. This is the last game of the season, it's not like it's meaningless. A win can do so much for us.
What you’ve seen from the Rainbow Warriors
They are like UMass — they play a lot of man-to-man defense, which one thing we have struggled with this whole season. We just have to find a way to get open. Hopefully, we can run the ball better and have opportunities to run. This last week, we were down so we had to throw the ball but once we start running the ball like we did at UNLV, it just opens things up. They are a man-to-man defense, they switch it up to zone sometimes, but as long as we get open and make plays it should be a good day for us.
Since we're not going a bowl game, we are going to have workouts next Monday. It's not like we have time off, we are going straight into workouts and conditioning just to get ready for next season. If we can go out with a win, we can just be that more positive and want to get so much better.