Provo • After rushing for a career-high 213 yards, praising God, referencing Bible stories and giving a shoutout to his family and BYU’s offensive line, running back Squally Canada also had time Friday night to deliver a “life lesson” to any youngsters who may have watched the Cougars defeat UNLV 31-21 in Las Vegas.
“Never look back,” Canada said. “Always look forward.”
That has become the 3-8 Cougars’ mantra as they play out this disappointing season, which got a bit of an unexpected jolt at Sam Boyd Stadium with their first road win since a 20-3 victory over Cincinnati on Nov. 5, 2016.
Canada, a junior who now has rushed for 297 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries the past two games, actually was describing why he got caught after a 54-yard run on the first play of the second half when it briefly appeared he was going to score.
“Growing up, I always took those to the house,” he said. “And the reason why is my dad taught me something: Never look back. There is a story in the Bible about Sodom and Gomorrah. A lady looked back, and she died. He told me, ‘When you are running, never look back. Always look forward.’
“So I was running, and I am thinking, ‘Let me see how fast I am running.’ I looked back, and I don’t know how close they was, but I am sure if I had kept running and focused on what was in front of me, I would have scored.”
Canada did score three plays later, from the 2, to give the Cougars a 21-7 lead. Although UNLV twice cut the deficit to seven, BYU made enough plays late to hold on for its first win as a slight underdog this season.
“It felt good to get our first road win, but we have still got two more games, and I am just trying to enjoy these last two games with the seniors,” Canada said. “After this year, I will probably never play with [them] again. I am just trying to enjoy these last few games with them and make memories.”
The Cougars return home Saturday (1 p.m., BYUtv) to face a 3-7 UMass team that has won three of its last four and is better than its record indicates. BYU concludes its season Nov. 25 at Hawaii.
Coach Kalani Sitake stressed after the UNLV win the theme that Canada developed: Just look forward. But he did pause to wonder what the season would have been like if Canada had been as healthy as he was Friday night and if first-time starting quarterback Joe Critchlow had been given more chances to develop in fall camp and earlier in the season.
“We should have done this earlier, but I am just happy that it came at all,” Sitake said.
The coach said Critchlow “played really well for his first time starting,” and all but promised that the big redhead would get the start against the Minutemen because sophomore Beau Hoge still is banged up.
“Well, um, yeah, that’s what I think. We will see. He didn’t make any [mistakes],” Sitake said. “He didn’t give the game away. He didn’t throw any picks. He put the ball in spots where only our guys could catch it. … I thought he was really safe with where he threw it. He showed a lot of poise in the pocket. I thought he used the pass protection really well and moved his feet really well.”
Critchlow, who completed 14 of 22 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, said he will take nothing for granted.
“I feel like there are a lot of opportunities I can learn from, mistakes that I made that I can grow from,” he said. “This was my first start. I have a lot more time here, and I hope to improve on that and get better and better.”