BYU-McNeese State Notebook: Former American Fork star Lopini Katoa gets two TDs

September 23, 2018

BYU running back Lopini Kotoa had a breakout performance in BYU’s 30-3 win against McNeese State Saturday. The freshman who played locally at American Fork High School scored two touchdowns and led the Cougars in rushing, carrying the ball 10 times for 64 yards. The 6.4 yards per carry has given BYU coaches notice that Kotoa is capable of being a legitimate threat for the Cougars going forward.

Katoa was the lone bright spot for the Cougars in the first quarter as BYU managed just 25 total yards total offense and six yards rushing. Kotoa carried the ball twice for 25 yards while three other rushes resulted in a net of minus 19 yards.

Then Katoa broke the plane twice in the second quarter helping BYU forge ahead of the determined Cowboys.

“The offensive line opened up some huge lanes to make it possible,” Kotoa said. “I’m just happy that I can be part of such a great team and contribute like I am.”

As a relative newcomer to the program Kotoa is glad to accrue knowledge from his teammates.

“I’m still learning,” Katoa said. “I run with a lot of great backs and they are teaching me a lot. Each person has their own strengths to take from. Coach Steward does a great job teaching all of us. It’s nice to learn from a back like Squally (Canada), with his playmaking abilities.”

Speaking of Canada, he had 57 yards of his own on 10 carries and all total BYU rushed for 161 yards while the Cowboys managed just 73 yards on the ground.

Kaufusi connection

Corbin Kaufusi carried out the state of Utah flag while his younger brother Devin carried out one of the team flags.

The other team flags were carried by Corbin and Devin’s first cousins Isaiah Kaufusi and Jackson Kaufusi.

Corbin and Devin, sons of former assistant coach Steve Kaufusi, prepped at Timpview, while Isaiah and Jackson, sons of Jeff Kaufusi, played at Brighton. All four Kaufusi’s saw some playing time and three were actually on the field at the same time.

Corbin mentioned in the post-game press conference that his grandfather, Petelo Kaufusi (father of Steve and Jeff), passed away at 79 years old earlier in the week so it was a special honor to carry the state and team flags and for both sets of brothers to receive playing time.

“To have all of us get in and do something was really great for the family,” Kaufusi said. “It was his time to go but we were happy to be able to put out a performance for him because he really loved BYU football.”

Louisiana love

For the second straight season BYU played a team hailing from the Bayou State.

Last year, BYU lost to LSU 27-0 in a “neutral” site game eventually played at the Superdome because Hurricane Harvey caused the game to be relocated from Houston. Both LSU and McNeese — as McNeese State prefers to be called — are powerhouses in their respective divisions.

McNeese is ranked in the Top 10 in two FCS polls and came into Saturday’s contest with BYU sporting a 3-0 record while LSU entered the weekend ranked No. 6 in the AP and Coaches polls.

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron has two twin sons on the McNeese team with backup quarterback Cody and wide receiver/punt returner Parker. Cody relieved starter James Tabary in the third quarter and was 4-for-5 for 13 yards but had one interception. Parker led his team in catches with four, but only had 15 total yards receiving. He did have two punt returns for 17 yards with a long of 12.

Cougar firsts

Kotoa and Talon Shumway scored their first career touchdowns. Shumway’s spectacular catch in the back of the end zone gave BYU its first touchdown by the wide receiving corp on the 2018 season.

Sawyer Powell and Alden Tofa secured his first career fumble recoveries while Tanner Jacobson and Rhett Sandlin recorded their first career interceptions.

Forcing the fumble recovered by Tofa was Austin Kafentzis, once recruited to play quarterback but who has switched over to defense this year.

Freshman kicker Skyler Southam nailed three field goals including his career long (so far) in a Cougar uniform of 47 yards.

BYU fans got their first chance to see true freshman quarterback Zach Wilson who made an appearance in the final stanza. Wilson was 1-for-2 passing for 12 yards.

Danny Jones made his first career punt and booted the ball twice for a 40.5 average including one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Aggressive play-calling

Though pinned down on their own 6-yard line to start their first offensive series, the Cougars came out aggressive. Tanner Mangum went long but was unable to connect with Gunnar Romney and then BYU followed with a jet sweep to Dax Milne, though the 8-yard run didn’t count in the stats as BYU accepted a 5-yard offside penalty on the Cowboys to save the down.

Cosmo unmasked

During a tumbling stunt during a break in the third quarter, Cosmo’s headgear came off. Look for film on Twitter though Cosmo (or the human playing him) alertly fell to the ground to cover his head and face while the cheerleaders recovered the head wear. There are no confirmed reports (yet) of children being (too) traumatized.

Extra points

Temperature at kickoff was an unseasonably warm 87 degrees with a 9 mph wind coming from the southwest. Though fires are still raging in southern Utah County, the skies were clear for the contest...For the second straight game BYU won the coin toss and elected to defer. McNeese State chose to receive the first half kickoff while the Cougars defended the north end zone. Alani Fua, Sae Tautu, and Jray Galea’i carried the alumni flags. Announced attendance was 53,223.

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