Virginia Pittsburgh Football Taulapapa

Virginia running back Wayne Taulapapa (left) runs toward Pittsburgh defensive lineman Devin Danielson in the second half Saturday in Pittsburgh. UVa won 30-14.

If it seemed that Virginia running back Wayne Taulapapa was sliding through cracks Saturday night at Pittsburgh, it wasn't the first time.

That's how he ended up at UVa.

"His journey has been a unique one," Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday, two days after Virginia's 30-14 victory over the Panthers in the season opener for both teams.

Taulapapa, a sophomore from Hawaii, took advantage of that opportunity and led the Cavaliers in rushing with 10 carries for 66 yards.

Mendenhall was the head coach at Brigham Young in 2015 when he took an oral commitment from Taulapapa, who had rushed for 3,279 yards and scored 52 touchdowns in his career at Punahou High School in Honolulu.

Mendenhall subsequently accepted the Virginia job while Taulapapa went on a Latter-day Saints mission to Nicaragua. However, there was civil unrest in that Central America nation and he cut short his mission.

"In the meantime, the new staff at Brigham Young did not honor his scholarship," Mendenhall said, "but I certainly did and wanted him. So, he ended up here at Virginia."

Quarterback Bryce Perkins had a team-high 18 carries against Pittsburgh. Aside from Taulapapa, who also had a 5-yard reception, PK Kier was the only other ball carrier with five rushing attempts for 19 yards.

"What I like about [Taulapapa's] running style — and I talked to the team about it this morning — is that he's always falling forward," Mendenhall said. "Rarely does the first player get him down."

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