By Creighton McEwen
BYU junior running back Reynaldo Brathwaite proved in last week”s 10-7 victory over New Mexico he not only belongs on the field, but he deserves to have the ball in his hands.
Brathwaite, who prefers to go by Rey, rushed 169 yards on 19 carries Saturday and provided a spark to a Cougar offense that desperately needed ignition. His game totals included an 89-yard run from scrimmage in the first quarter.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Brathwaite said. “I don”t think much on the field. I just react to what happens around me.”
Brathwaite, who once ran for 314 yards and seven touchdowns in a high school game, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but is originally from Spring Valley, Calif. After attending Grossmont Junior College for two years, he transferred to BYU.
“The classes are harder,” he said when asked of the differences between Grossmont and BYU. He also said more time is spent on football here.
After a knee injury forced him to redshirt last season, he is seeing his first action as a Cougar this year.
He jumped at the chance to fill in for junior Marcus Whalen who went down with a foot injury in the first game of the season.
Head coach Gary Crowton said he recognizes his determination to be a known weapon on offense.
“I”m very happy with what Rey”s done,” Crowton said. “[He] is playing very well, and he”s very versatile. [He”s] a poised player.”
The Cougars failed to score a touchdown but did score a field goal, after Brathwaite carried the ball to the one yard line, in a breathtaking 89-yard run, the longest BYU run since 1958.
Braithwaite said he was grateful for the win, but is excited to make a touchdown later this season.
“We won the game by that field goal,” he said. “I”ll get my chances to score later on.”
BYU fans better hope so. The Cougar offense hasn”t scored a rushing touchdown in 22 quarters, dating back to the second quarter against Wyoming last season.
Though Brathwaite will start Saturday against Stanford, Whalen will be returning to the lineup, and both will share the duties as premier running back.
“We”ll probably start out with Rey and work Marcus in and see how it goes,” Crowton said. “Hopefully, they”ll give us a good one-two punch.”
Crowton changed his ground offense a little bit last season to structure more around Whalen”s abilities, but will be using Brathwaite whose style is similar to Luke Staley.
“[Brathwaite and Whalen] are different style of runners,” Crowton said. “Rey has outside speed. He can cut back. Marcus is a little bit more of a punishing runner.
“[Brathwaite] can take the direct snap. He”s comfortable with that. He has very good vision and understanding. He brings a lot to the table. Kind of like Luke did.”
Credit is due to the BYU community for embracing Brathwaite, as some BYU athletes are often misunderstood.
“I don”t feel like I”m misunderstood,” he said. “People come up to me and talk to me. People are nice here.”