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Unsung backups Hall, El-Bakri provide offense spark for BYU in win over SUU

PROVO — With Jamaal Williams not playing due to injury and Squally Canada suffering an injury in the first half in Saturday’s 37-7 victory over Southern Utah, BYU’s running backs needed a boost.

Two unsung backups, freshman K.J. Hall and sophomore Brayden El-Bakri, delivered.

Hall rushed 12 times for 59 yards and scored a touchdown and he caught three passes for 68 yards while El-Bakri, a fullback, had four receptions for 69 yards.

“I was ready to do whatever was asked of me,” said Hall, the son of former Cougar running back Kalin Hall. “I was ready to go in if they needed me and do my job … When Squally went down and Algie (Brown) was a little bit hurt, they let me run with it. I hadn’t played against an opponent in three or four years. It was a lot of fun.”

Late in the first half, Hall caught a pass and danced his way for a 32-yard gain before being tackled at the SUU 2-yard line.

“Oh my gosh, that’s going to be going through my mind for I don’t know how long,” Hall said. “That was pretty disappointing.”

One play later, though, he scored his first career touchdown.

“I was happy to be out there in the first place," Hall said. "It was pretty cool to get into the end zone.”

.@BYUfootball RB KJ Hall (@khall247) with an impressive debut for the Cougars with 12 carries for 59 yards, 1 TD, and 3 rec. for 68 yards pic.twitter.com/BRCWpGVdP4

— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) November 13, 2016

El-Bakri bulldozed Thunderbird defenders throughout the game.

“It’s a blast. That’s what I love to do — is hit. I’d rather block someone that catch a pass wide open,” he said. “Hitting and hard-nosed football, that’s what I grew up with and that’s what I love.”

Cougar coach Kalani Sitake, a former BYU fullback, enjoyed watching El-Bakri’s contributions.

“I’m always going to be excited when a fullback gets the chance to run the ball or catch the ball,” Sitake said. “He doesn’t have a lot of moves, but it’s hard to bring him down.”

El-Bakri appreciated getting a lot of playing time.

“It’s definitely a confidence-builder when you come out and play good,” he said. “Every game is important. Every time you learn something.”

.@BYUfootball FB Brayden El-Bakri had a career day vs. Southern Utah (@SUUFB), catching four passes for 69 yards pic.twitter.com/O9Bkc5s8GC

— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) November 13, 2016

TARGETING EJECTION: SUU junior linebacker Mike Needham was disqualified from the game in the second quarter for a targeting penalty. Needham hit BYU punt returner Garrett Juergens before Juergens could field the punt.

“It’s just doing stuff out of character,” said SUU coach Demario Warren. “It happends over and over again in some of these big games, so it is a little frustrating. He just made a bad decision. He thought the ball was coming and he knew he was wrong as soon as he did it. This is just one of those things that you can’t let happen, let them get free yards and lose one of your best players on something that should have never happened.”

ALUMS IN ATTENDANCE: Former Thunderbird safety Miles Killebrew, who now plays for the Detroit Lions, attended Saturday’s game, as did former SUU quarterback, and BYU quarterback, Ammon Olsen.

NOTES: Garrett Juergens with a career high in punt return yards with 62 … BYU safety Eric Takenaka recorded his first career interception in the third quarter. He made a nice one-handed grab for the pick … BYU defensive end Corbin Kaufusi blocked SUU’s 49-yard field goal attempt with 6:59 remaining in the game.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com