Provo • The visiting team’s players all had their school’s new preferred name — McNeese — on the backs of their jerseys Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU’s jersey backs included its players’ last names, but they just as well could have read: Kaufusi.
Four players with the last name of Kaufusi — Corbin, Devin, Jackson and Isaiah — contributed to BYU’s 30-3 win over the Cowboys, all on defense and/or special teams.
That was somehow fitting, because their paternal grandfather, Petelo Kaufusi, passed away earlier in the week at the age of 79. Petelo Kaufusi immigrated from Tonga to Utah in 1972 and had eight children. Seven played football for either BYU or the University of Utah.
Corbin and Devin are the sons of former BYU assistant coach and player Steve Kaufusi. Jackson and Isaiah are the sons of another of Petelo’s sons, Jeff Kaufusi.
“It was amazing [that all four played],” said Corbin Kaufusi. “Especially this week, because our grandpa passed away. So to have us all come in and do something was great. We were happy to put out that performance for him, because he loves BYU football.”
Corbin Kaufusi, all 6-foot-9 of him, made the biggest play of them all.
He blocked a field goal in the second quarter that would have given McNeese a 6-0 lead. Junior safety Troy Warner scooped the ball and returned it to the McNeese 44. The Cougars scored seven plays later to take a lead they would not relinquish.
“The whole defense knew we needed to make a play,” said Corbin Kaufusi, who played on BYU’s basketball team for three years. “We needed something. Luckily, I got my two big guys in the middle to push them back and make it easy. Special teams is where big plays can be made. That’s the time to make a big play.”
More big plays by the defense followed, as Tanner Jacobson and Rhett Sandlin came up with their first career interceptions and Michael Shelton and Nate Sampson forced fumbles that were recovered by Sawyer Powell and Alden Tofa.
With three starting defenders out with injuries — Zayne Anderson, Dayan Ghanwoloku and Butch Pau’u — Shelton led the Cougars with six tackles and Kaufusi added five tackles and a sack.
McNeese had 97 of its 207 total yards in the first quarter. Head coach Kalani Sitake gave a spirited pep talk that got the defense going, Corbin Kaufusi said.
“It was basically just, ‘get going,’ ” Kaufusi said. “He said, ‘you’re not playing with enough energy. You’re not having fun.’ … He reminded us to have fun and play. I like when he does that. He knows we can give more.”
Jacobson’s pick led to the touchdown — a beautiful 7-yard pass from Tanner Mangum to Talon Shumway — that gave BYU a 14-3 lead. It was a nice moment for the senior who was once a starting safety for Texas Tech but hasn’t played much for the Cougars. He was moved to running back during preseason camp, then moved back to his original position a few weeks ago.
“It was awesome,” Jacobson said. “It was one thing that I’ve wanted for a long time. I was thinking that I was going to have the opportunity to do something. Years of work led to a play like that.”
BYU seniors who made big defensive plays vs. McNeese
• Rhett Sandlin recorded his first career interception
• Tanner Jacobson recorded his first career interception
• Michael Shelton forced a fumble and also made six tackles
• Sawyer Powell recovered a fumble
• Corbin Kaufusi blocked a field goal and make a sack