|Joe Critchlow lets it fly in Las Vegas (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)|
After Friday's win over UNLV, BYU Cougars running back Squally Canada quickly, and wisely, credited his offensive line for his 200-yard rushing performance. While the bulk of the credit belongs to the five guys upfront, some credit should also be given to freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow.
BYU has experienced serious offensive woes this season. The Cougar offense has lacked an identity. After game five, it appeared BYU had found an identity. Although they lost to Utah State, the Cougars had racked up 210 yards rushing.
Opponents quickly caught on to BYU's run first philosophy. They developed schemes to stop it. BYU was unable to counter with a respectable passing attack, so opposing defenses had no need to adjust their scheme.
UNLV knew Critchlow was a true freshman making his first start. He was not well versed in the BYU playbook, and didn't have a lot of experience reading college defenses. UNLV would focus on stopping the run. The Running Rebels were hedging their bet that Critchlow couldn't play well enough on the big stage.
BYU had 52 yards rushing in the first half on 12 carries. That is a modest 4.3 yards per carry. Twenty of those 52 yards came on one play. UNLV had done pretty well stopping the run, however, they trailed 14-7.
Part of that was the Rebels' inability to finish drives. The other part was Critchlow.
The first-time starter was making good reads, finding the open receivers, and delivering the ball with accuracy and touch. Critchlow hit Micah Simon between two defenders 30 yards downfield. In the face of a blitz, he delivered a strike to his hot receiver. He dropped the ball, perfectly, into a hole in the UNLV zone for a 26-yard pickup. Critchlow had perfect placement on a throw to the back corner of the end zone. That gave him his first career touchdown pass.
Critchlow wasn't just managing the game; he was winning it.
UNLV was forced to adjust at halftime, and Canada was the beneficiary. He got the ball on the first play of the second half. UNLV had just six defenders in the box. Lead blocker Brayden El-Bakri took on the only linebacker on the left side of the line, and that sprung Canada for 54 yards.
BYU continued running the ball, and UNLV had no answer. Canada got the ball 20 times in the second half alone. The Running Rebels couldn't sell out to stop the Cougar rushing attack, because they knew as soon as they did Critchlow would make them pay.
After he finishes rewarding his offensive line, Canada would do well to go thank his quarterback.
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