PROVO — When BYU's Fui Vakapuna carries the ball, Cougar fans love to chant, "Fuuuuiiiiii."

But in Saturday's season-opening win over Northern Iowa, there was no Fui on the field. Coach Bronco Mendenhall held the senior running back out of the game because he hadn't practiced during the week. As it turned out, Vakapuna spent the week trying to finish up some summer school work to become eligible.

Though Vakapuna was eligible for the game, Mendenhall decided on Thursday to sit him.

"I won't play a player that doesn't practice all week," Mendenhall said. "We have a core policy that you don't practice or play unless all of your work is current. Unfortunately, it took him all the way through Friday.

"I won't set the precedent of playing a player that doesn't practice, regardless of who it is. It is a right, it's a privilege to play in LaVell Edwards Stadium and on this team. That means you've done everything else right for a chance to be out there."

Mendenhall said Vakapuna has handled the situation well and he looks forward to having him back next week when the Cougars travel to Washington.

"He's back in good standing," Mendenhall added.

TOUCHBACK POWER: In 2007, BYU had only two touchbacks on kickoffs all season long. On Saturday, freshman Justin Sorensen, making his BYU debut, booted two into the end zone in the first quarter alone.

"Justin Sorensen's worth to our team was demonstrated today," Mendenhall said. "When you can have the opponent start with the ball on the 20, their chances of scoring points goes way down, especially now knowing that if you kick the ball out of bounds, you get it on the 40."

Mendenhall pointed out that there's a caveat to those booming kicks.

"I think there could be another issue that we have to fight now: complacency on the kickoff team. They might expect every ball to go out of the end zone. That could be a unique problem or challenge to handle."

LAVELL HONORED: BYU started a new pre-game tradition Saturday with the practice of having two "Y" flag bearers — including one former player or coach. Prior to the game, legendary coach LaVell Edwards carried out the flag with his son — and former Cougar player — Jimmy.

Mendenhall said he got the idea to include former coaches and players on game day during Alumni Day last spring.

"It's the best compliment to pay," he said.

When he asked the players who should be first to start the tradition, the players chose Edwards. "Who better than LaVell?" Mendenhall said. "It was great to have him and his son here."

EXTRA POINTS: An official from the Fiesta Bowl, one of the four Bowl Championship Series bowl games, was in attendance Saturday. ... BYU has now scored first in 23 of its last 26 games. ... The Cougars scored more points Saturday (41) than they had in their three previous season-openers combined (36).


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com