Mika Tafua will begin his collegiate playing career in the state of Utah, but not at his original school.
In February of 2015, Tafua signed his Letter of Intent with BYU on National Signing Day. The linebacker then left on a two-year LDS mission in Tacoma, Washington, with the plan initially being to head to Provo when that church work was completed.
With the church mission completed, Tafua has decided, instead of BYU, he’ll start his career with Holy War rival Utah. The football program announced the development Tuesday.
Tafua will also be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, who have six games remaining in the 2017 season. And, apparently, the true freshman could see action sooner rather than later.
“He’s already in the mix,” defensive line coach Lewis Powell said according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s lifting and running around with the fellas. We’re excited about him.”
A three-star 2015 recruit, Tafua was rated as the No. 17 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Hawaii on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.
The good news for BYU on Friday night? The team hit a new season-high for points scored.
The bad news? It was not at all enough to keep things close on the road at Utah State as the team dropped to 1-4 on the year after losing 40-24 to the Aggies.
The issues for the Cougars once again began and ended with the quarterback position. Starter Beau Hoge tossed three touchdowns — one of which went to the other team on a pick-six — before being knocked out in the first half with an injury. Naturally that stunted any signs of growth offensively, as backup Koy Detmer Jr. could not get much of anything going after taking over under center and finished the night with 91 yards passing and three interceptions. All told, the team turned the ball over seven times.
As disappointing as the trip up to Logan was for BYU, the victory could mark a big turning point for the home team as they prepare to enter the thick of Mountain West play. Quarterback Kent Myers was terrific through the air and on the ground, throwing for two scores and running for another on the night. The Aggies averaged nearly six yards a play before running the clock out late in the game and nearly hit the 400 yard mark against a defense that many thought was pretty stout coming in. Defensive back Jalen Davis was all over the field and recorded three interceptions, two of which he took back for touchdowns to nearly match the offensive scoring of his opponent.
Combined with a 61 point outing last week at San Jose State, the result should help cool off any hot seat talk for USU coach Matt Wells. The same could probably not be said for his counterpart down in Provo as Kalani Sitake enters a crucial stretch during his young tenure leading the team with Boise State and Mississippi State coming up to start October.
While everybody expected a rough start to the season for BYU with that brutal early schedule, few could have predicted the Cougars would still be searching for their first FBS win at this point and struggling to do much of anything on the offensive end.
In a stunning development, it turns out that Wisconsinites (gasp!) like their beer.
Of course, it’s neither stunning nor a development that the state of Wisconsin tends to imbibe more than most others, as survey after survey after survey has suggested. This past weekend, a pair of Provo bars — in fact, the only two bar bars in the entire Mormon-heavy city — bore witness to the alcohol monolith that is the state in general and its college football fans in particular.
The Wisconsin Badgers invaded Provo Saturday for its Week 3 matchup with the BYU Cougars. With its fans in tow, it seemed as if the whole of the college football world was just daring Badger Nation to drink the city dry, a challenge from which they didn’t back down.
The damage? Both bars reported that they had their best financial weekends ever, thanks in very large part to the thirst of Badger Fan.
“Financially, it‘s the biggest day I’ve ever had here,” ABG’s Libation Emporium owner Gary Whitling told the Salt Lake Tribune, stating that he did triple the amount of business he would’ve normally done. For those curious, Wisconsinites mostly quenched their collective thirsts with Bud Light and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.
Despite the copious amount of imbibing, there were few if any incidents involving the out-of-towners, which serves s a significant testament to the fan base.
“It was a wonderful thing,” Whitling said. “The people from Wisconsin are fabulous. They‘re the nicest, funnest people we’ve ever had here.”
September is quickly turning into a month of horrors for BYU. While the Cougars offense has been atrocious, it was the defense’s turn to head South on Saturday as well, allowing Wisconsin to roll to an easy 40-6 victory that they controlled from the opening kickoff until the final few minutes.
Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook was the main reason why the team won their marquee non-conference road game, completing a nearly perfect afternoon in Provo by going 18/19 — the one incompletion was a bobbled drop — for 256 yards and four touchdown. Freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor joined in on the fun to continue his impressive run in the backfield by rushing for 128 yards and a score, literally using his big offensive line to run right over a typically stout BYU defense.
That the team put up nearly 500 yards of offense without involving star tight end Troy Fumagalli much (two catches, 39 yards and a touchdown) is also an encouraging sign for Paul Chryst’s squad as they enter Big Ten play in two weeks against Northwestern.
Wisconsin’s defense looked as good as ever in the picturesque setting under the Wasatch front but it was hard to tell if it was just the visitors being that good or the home team being that bad offensively. Beau Hoge struggled in his first start taking over for the injured Tanner Mangum (in a walking boot and scooter on the sidelines after an injury against Utah), completing just 11 passes for 111 yards while also throwing two interceptions. He didn’t get much help from his normally solid offensive line or run game either, with freshman Ula Tolutau managing to lead the ground game with only 58 yards.
The loss caps off a brutal run for the Cougars against Power Five competition, being outscored 86-19 in three losses to LSU, Utah and Wisconsin and managing to find the end zone just twice in 12 quarters. Things do ease up a tad on the schedule the rest of the way but it’s clear there are big questions that head coach Kalani Sitake and company have to answer going forward.
Meanwhile, the Badgers managed to pass their biggest test of the first half of the season with flying colors and may have an even better offense than first thought coming into the year. With Michigan likely being the only ranked team left on the schedule, Hornibrook and Wisconsin may be eyeing yet another division title and trip to a New Year’s Six bowl if they can continue to roll like this.
BYU’s offense has been lackluster to start the 2017 season and they didn’t get much respite in their Week 3 matchup against Wisconsin’s stifling defense. As a result, the combination of a backup quarterback for the Cougars and an efficient performance from the visitors on both sides of the ball allowed the Badgers to hold a 24-6 lead going into the locker room at halftime in Provo.
Wisconsin tailback Jonathan Taylor picked up where he left of last week and led the way on the ground with 86 yards rushing and a touchdown that he powered across the goal line. His performance helped take the pressure off his backfield teammate Alex Hornibrook, who wrapped up two quarters worth of work with a near perfect stat line of 10/11 for 149 yards and two scores. Perhaps the biggest surprise for Paul Chryst’s offense was how much of that passing game didn’t have to rely on stud tight end Troy Fumagalli (just one catch for 20 yards).
With BYU starting quarterback Tanner Mangum on the sidelines in a walking boot and scooter, backup Beau Hoge (son of former NFLer Merril Hoge) was okay — if a bit wide-eyed — in his first extended action as the guy behind center but finished with 71 yards passing, an interception and another 25 yards rushing.
We’ll see if a big play that led to a field goal just before halftime could help spark the Cougars in the third quarter but it certainly looks Wisconsin is well on their way to a 3-0 start to the year based on the early returns from this trip out West.