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BYU's run game shows positive signs early in season-opener against Arizona

Brigham Young Cougars running back Squally Canada (22) runs against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.
Brigham Young Cougars running back Squally Canada (22) runs against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred

TUCSON, Arizona — Senior running back Squally Canada got BYU off to a good start Saturday night against Arizona.

Canada scored the Cougars' first touchdown of the season on a one-yard run with 9:58 remaining in the first half.

Over the first 30 minutes of the game, Canada rushed nine times for 35 yards, thanks in part to the offensive line's ability to open holes, and he caught two passes for 29 yards.

Senior fullback Brayden El-Bakri scored the first touchdown of the Kalani Sitake Era two years ago when the Cougars beat Arizona, 18-16, at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The walk-on from Brighton High played in his first game Saturday as a scholarship player.

“It’s awesome. I always told myself as a walk-on that the real currency of football is playing time,” El-Bakri said about earning a scholarship. “I’m thankful to (coach) Kalani (Sitake) and everything he did to help me get it.”

Late in the first half, El-Bakri picked up a first down on an eight-yard catch.

El-Bakri’s younger brother, Bracken, a starting defensive lineman, said Brayden is going to be a big contributor.

“He’s going to have a fantastic season,” he said. “He’s an NFL fullback and everybody knows it. He’s going to show the world. He’s going to have a lot of catches. … He’s going to go to the (NFL) for sure. It’s a no-brainer.”

Meanwhile, freshman Lopini Katoa recorded his first career carry on the final play of the first half for eight yards. Arizona led at halftime, 10-7.

CAPTAINS, MY CAPTAINS: BYU has eight team captains this season, four on offense and four on defense. The captains are quarterback Tanner Mangum, fullback Brayden El-Bakri, offensive lineman Austin Hoyt, receiver Micah Simon, defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi and linebackers Butch Pau'u, Zayne Anderson and Sione Takitaki.

For the inaugural pregame coin toss of the season, the offensive captains participated in the pregame coin toss.

BYU VS. PAC: Going into Saturday’s game at Arizona, BYU had a 4-7 record on the road against Pac-12 opponents since 2001.

The losses came at USC (2003), Stanford (2004), Arizona (2006), UCLA (2007, 2015), Utah (2012, 2016).

The wins came at California (2001, 2014), Washington (2008), Oregon State (2011).

COMING HOME: Five BYU players are Arizona natives — tight end Matt Bushman, who played at Tucson’s Sabino High; deep snapper Mitch Harris; offensive lineman Chandon Herring; wide receiver Gunner Romney; and defensive back Beau Tanner. Tanner did not make the trip to Arizona due to an injury.

NOTES: Prior to kickoff, there was a moment of silence in honor of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who passed away last week. … BYU defensive back Michael Shelton was credited with a block of a missed Arizona field goal attempt in the first half. It was his first career block.