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BYU football: JJ Di Luigi's early run was a good omen

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 5:25 a.m. MDT

PROVO — Last week, BYU rushed for an anemic 11 yards in a blowout loss to Utah.

Needless to say, running the ball was a priority for the Cougars entering Friday night's game against Central Florida.

Running back JJ Di Luigi broke free for an 18-yard gain on BYU's first play from scrimmage, a good omen for the Cougars.

In the end, BYU rushed 32 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Di Luigi finished with seven carries for 38 yards and a TD, Bryan Kariya rushed 14 times for 52 yards and a score, and Josh Quezada ran nine times for 32 yards.

And for good measure, David Foote came off the bench on a fake punt, took a pitch from backup quarterback Riley Nelson, and sprinted 21 yards for a first down on BYU's opening drive of the second half.

"It really was huge," quarterback Jake Heaps said of the Cougars' ground game. "I'm so happy for our offensive line and our running backs and our receivers are making great blocks. Toward the end of the game, they were trying to stop the run and they still couldn't stop it."

BYU's offensive line blew open some holes for the running backs.

"The biggest thing offensively was seeing our offensive line take over in certain points during the game where they just started mashing up front," Heaps said. "We really needed that. We haven't had that the last couple of games."

Kariya ran only once in the Utah game. Coach Bronco Mendenhall explained that Kariya has been banged up, and he was pleased to see solid production from the running backs.

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Jordan Pendleton (ankle) and Houston Reynolds (foot) did not play Friday.

The Cougars played most of the game without wide receiver Ross Apo, who had scored all three offensive touchdowns for BYU this season going into Friday's game. Apo left the game in the first quarter due to a mild concussion and didn't return. He was injured in first quarter on a hit coming across the middle of the field near the goal line.

HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES: Former quarterback Gary Sheide headlines BYU's Hall of Fame class of 2011.

As a senior in 1974, Sheide led the Cougars to a 7-4-1 record and to their first bowl game. He won the Sammy Baugh trophy, was the WAC's Most Valuable Player, and first-team All-WAC.

Sheide and four others will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame —men's volleyball coach Carl McGown, track star Courtney Pugmire Meldrum, golfer Andy Miller, and women's volleyball player Mariliisa Salmi. All five were honored at halftime of Friday's game.

FLAG BEARERS: Former BYU wide receiver Jay Miller (1972-74, 76) carried out the alumni flag Friday while wide receiver Cody Hoffman carried out the team flag and placekicker Justin Sorensen carried out the special teams flag.

COACH TO CURE: The coaching staffs of BYU and UCF wore special arm patches Friday night to raise awareness for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Coaches around the country are wearing the patches this weekend.

This is the fourth year of Coach to Cure MD, a partnership between the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and Parent Project MD. The program will top one million dollars in donations this season for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

EXTRA POINTS: Announced attendance was 59,874 …. Hoffman's third quarter kickoff return marked BYU's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Mike Rigell accomplished the feat in 1998 at Hawaii … Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman called plays from the press box for the first time this season.. In the first three games, he called plays from the sidelines … Cornerback Joe Sampson recorded BYU's first sack of the season when he tackled UCF quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey for a nine-yard loss in the first quarter … With Friday's win, BYU avoided losing back-to-back home games on consecutive weekends. That hasn't happened since 2003.

Email: jcall@desnews.com

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