Las Vegas • Junior running back Squally Canada plopped down on a chair outside the BYU locker room at Sam Boyd Stadium, still exhausted after leading the Cougars to a 31-21 win and asking if he could take a rest during postgame interviews.
Canada rushed 25 times for 213 yards — the ninth-most in a single game in BYU history — and a touchdown as the Cougars improved to 9-0 against UNLV in front of an evenly-mixed crowd of 19,811 on Friday night.
“That’s not bad. I’ll take that,” Canada said after asking for his stat line. “Amen. Praise God.”
He also praised his offensive line of Tejan Koroma, Keyan Norman, Austin Hoyt, Tuni Kanuch and Thomas Shoaf for opening the holes and dominating the game after a slow start.
BYU rushed for 265 yards, one yard shy of a season-high. Austin Kafentzis added 53 yards on 10 carries.
“I mentioned earlier in the week that we had to own the front,” said coach Kalani Sitake.
The Cougars (3-8) did that, downing the Rebels for the eighth straight time and putting a serious dent in the home team’s bowl hopes. UNLV dropped to 4-6.
“Winning can heal a lot of wounds, and we were wounded,” Sitake said.
Freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow made his first career start and played mistake-free football, completing 14 of 22 passes for 160 yards and a highlight-reel touchdown pass to Aleva Hifo at the end of the first half.
“He showed a lot of poise in the pocket,” Sitake said.
The coach mentioned that presumed starter Beau Hoge couldn’t play due to injury, and Critchlow was informed early in the week that he would be the man. Sitake said the freshman played well enough to earn the call against UMass at home next week.
“The team as a whole really had my back,” Critchlow said. “It felt really good.”
Rhett Almond’s 28-yard field goal gave BYU a 31-21 lead with 5:39 remaining, capping a 10-play, 45-yard drive and sealing BYU’s first road win in over a year.
There were a few tense moments for the Cougars before that.
They were in great shape when they scored on their first possession of the second half to take a 21-7 lead and drove to the UNLV 16 on their next possession. But the drive stalled and Almond’s 34-yard field goal attempt was wiped off the board by a holding penalty on Corbin Kaufusi. Almond missed from 44 on his next attempt.
Having seized the momentum, UNLV drove 73 yards in eight plays and cut the BYU lead to 21-14.