Thursday, December 31, 2009

Highly Regarded Running Back Prospect Joshua Quezada Commits to Cougars

After receiving official commitments earlier this month from the nation’s top prep quarterback and one of the best high school receivers in Texas, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall today announced that one of the top running backs in California—La Habra High School standout Joshua Quezada—has also signed a scholarship agreement to enroll at BYU in January.

Quezada joins Jake Heaps out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Wash., and wide receiver Ross Apo out of the Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas, as high school seniors coming to Provo to begin college mid-year.

“Joshua is excited to come to BYU, and we are equally excited to have him join us,” Mendenhall said. “He embraces what our program is about on and off the field. He has the ability to be a very successful member of our team and help us continue to improve our program.”

A 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back out of La Habra High School in La Habra, Calif., Quezada rushed for 2,114 yards and 26 touchdowns and added 186 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver to lead the Highlanders to their third straight CIF-Southern Section Southwest Division Championship in 2009. He was named the 2009 Freeway League MVP, Daily News 2009 Football Player of the Year, and CIF-SS Southwest Division Offensive Player of the Year while earning back-to-back first-team All-Orange County honors as a senior. He averaged 8 yards per carry and 151 yards per game overall and accounted for 11.1 points per contest while leading La Habra to a 13-1 record.

Quezada not only put up big numbers during the season but also came through with his best performances during key games. Among the season’s many highlights, Quezada galloped for 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-21 semifinal victory over Cypress High School to advance to the championship game. He carried the Highlanders to the 2009 title by averaging 203.8 yards per game in four playoff contests.

As a junior in 2008, he ran for 1,680 yards on 163 carries and scored 21 touchdowns while adding 21 receptions for 318 yards and three touchdowns on the way to the 2008 CIF-SS title. He was first-team All-Orange County, first-team All-League and first-team All-CIF.

In addition to Quezada, Heaps and Apo, several other BYU recruits and returned missionaries plan to enroll in January. 2009 National Letter of Intent signee Kyle Van Noy, a linebacker out of McQueen High School in Reno, Nev., and 2007 NLI signees Famika Anae (OL, Timpview High School, Provo, Utah), Devin Mahina (TE/DE Upland High School, Upland, Calif.) and Marcus Matthews (WR, Southridge High School, Beaverton, Ore.) will enroll for winter semester as well as 2006 redshirt quarterback James Lark out of Pine View High School in St. George, Utah.

Ross Apo         WR    6-3   190  Arlington, Texas / The Oakridge School
Jake Heaps       QB    6-2   205  Issaquah, Wash. / Skyline HS
Joshua Quezada   RB    5-11  210  La Habra, Calif. / La Habra High School
Kyle Van Noy     LB    6-4   209  Reno, Nev. / McQueen HS
Famika Anae      OL    6-5   260  Provo, Utah / Timpview HS
Devin Mahina    TE/DE  6-6   225  Upland, Calif. / Upland HS
Marcus Mathews   WR    6-4   200  Beaverton, Ore. / Southridge HS
James Lark       QB    6-2   219  St. George, Utah / Pine View HS
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Asiata: "Very Good Shot" at 6th Year

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that "Utah's compliance directors have been told that running back Matt Asiata (ACL) has a very good chance at receiving a waiver" that would allow him to play a 6th year.

If Asiata does return he'll team with Eddie Wide to provide the Utes with a very formidable running back duo.

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It's Been a Whirlwind Journey For Idaho's Iupati

The past month has been a bit surreal for Idaho senior Mike Iupati, and things aren't expected to slow down for the 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive guard.

Iupati became a consensus All-American, traveled to Orlando, Fla., because he was one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, taken final exams and has narrowed his choice for an agent - all while trying to prepare for the Vandals' appearance in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl.

"It's been crazy," Iupati said.

But the multi-tasking is something that Iupati has handled like he does an opponent's defensive line - brilliantly.

"With Mike, I don't think it's been hard, I think it's been fun," coach Robb Akey said. "He's been eyes wide open the whole time. He's a kid who is appreciating everything that comes to him.

"ESPN people were thanking me when we were leaving Orlando. They talked about how sometimes kids come down here and it's all about them because they like getting the notoriety. They told me they've never had anyone more genuinely appreciative than Mike Iupati. I think that says a lot for him as a person."

The native of American Samoa who moved to the United States when he finished junior high was star-struck in Orlando. The ESPNU Home Depot College Football Awards show featured the likes of Colt McCoy, Mark Ingram and Tim Tebow. Bowling Green receiver Freddie Barnes, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, also attended.

"When I first got there, I felt out of place," Iupati said.

After the H-Bowl, Iupati will travel to New Haven, Conn., for the Walter Camp Football Foundation dinner Jan. 16. He then will prepare the Jan. 30 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he'll get another shot at impressing NFL scouts who have told the Idaho Statesman that he can be picked anywhere from the first to third round in the April draft.

"I'm excited about what his future can be," Akey said. "It's been awesome to watch it take place. All he's ever done is work as had as he can."

The fanfare and craziness hasn't affected Iupati's preparations.

"He's practiced well," Akey said. "A couple times coach (Dan) Finn grabbed him and said, 'We need better focus,' but in the grand scheme of things, he has handled it very very well."

Iupati plans to relocate to Irvine, Calif., to prepare for the NFL Combine. He'll sign with an agent - he's keeping his choice quiet - after the season.

Speaking of the season, it's something that remains a high priority to him. He is one of 12 seniors who helped Idaho record its first winning season in 10 years.

"We want to finish strong," Iupati said. "We wanted to win our last game against Utah State, and hopefully this one will be different."

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A Start to Remember For Stanford's Tavita Pritchard

Last summer, David Pritchard had a message for his family about the Stanford quarterback situation. He informed them that redshirt freshman Andrew Luck would supplant Tavita Pritchard as the starter.

"We're going to be positive," the father told Tavita's seven brothers and sisters.

"We're going to be supportive of the program and of Andrew."

After starting 19 games for the Cardinal, Tavita also embraced the message.

He became a dutiful backup by helping Luck make a smooth transition to college football.

Along the way Pritchard, 22, gained respect and admiration from teammates and coaches. But now the fifth-year senior gets what he really wanted: One more chance to start.

Pritchard will line up behind center in his final college game Thursday when Stanford plays Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. He has been called into service because Luck broke the index finger on his throwing hand last month against Notre Dame.

"The fact he gets to end his career with a start is a little blessing," David said just before driving a van filled with 10 family members from Palo Alto to El Paso.

Pritchard might have lost his spot on the field as Stanford reached its first bowl since 2001, but he never lost teammates' confidence in him, because he didn't let personal disappointments spill into the locker room.

"No matter how this season has gone, or how my career here has gone, I wouldn't trade this experience for the world," Pritchard said.
Coach Jim Harbaugh, an NFL quarterback for 15 seasons, understood how the backup felt.

"Every quarterback worth their salt wants to play, but there's only one ball," he said.

Stanford players showed their appreciation for his positive attitude by giving Pritchard a standing ovation at the team's end-of-the-year banquet this month. Now they're solidly behind him.

"He stepped in the first day of bowl practice, and it was like nothing had changed," center Chase Beeler said of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Pritchard.

"Tavita just filled the quarterback and leadership role so well."

It has been that way since his famous debut as a sophomore two years ago.

Pritchard's first start came against No. 2 USC after T.C. Ostrander suffered a seizure. He led his team to one of the most stunning upsets in college football, a 24-23 victory over the 40-point favorite. Pritchard's 10-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left helped end the Trojans' 35-game winning streak at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The performance has been heralded as one of Stanford's greatest football moments. But it was too much to ask the quarterback to perform weekly miracles. Pritchard and Stanford won only two of the final seven games of the '07 season. Last season, he threw 13 interceptions and 10 touchdown passes as the Cardinal went 5-7.

That led to the quarterback change. Luck took over in the spring and won the starting job in fall camp. He hasn't proven his coaches wrong, forcing defenses to focus on the pass as much the run behind Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart.

Luck completed 56.3 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Pritchard, on the other hand, threw three passes in four games this season.

It has been the way Pritchard handled his frustrating circumstances that made his parents most proud. He never complained or showed signs of self pity. Pritchard just kept preparing to play, if needed.

"There's certainly a part of him that was disappointed, discouraged at times, wishing it was different," said his father, who was a center for Washington State.

As a former high school football coach in Lakewood, Wash., David preaches sportsmanship over winning to his eight children, including three boys who all play quarterback. But the Stanford situation this fall tested the family's values.

"We often as parents talk a good talk about the things that are most important in life," the father said. "Really for us, it was time to ask, 'What do we really believe?' Tavita did what he should have done. I'm glad he did the right thing."

Now Pritchard will have a chance to contribute much more.

"We're looking at this game like a playoff game," he said. "We didn't make it this far to go out and lose to Oklahoma."

Pritchard also has the chance to rediscover the magic of his debut two years ago.

"He's already made his name in history once," Gerhart said. "He can do it again.

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Manti Te'o Not Leaving For Mission Yet

 University of Notre Dame freshman linebacker Manti Te'o has decided he will return to campus for the spring semester and delay his mission trip for at least one year and possibly until later in his life.

Te'o will continue at Notre Dame during his sophomore year and will be a member of the Irish football team in 2010.

"This was probably the biggest decision that I¹I've had to face in my entire life," Te'o said in a release issued by the University. "I knew the impact of my decision could have a positive influence on those who follow me and those who watch what I do. I always want to have a positive influence on them. I just thought that I was sent to Notre Dame for a purpose and that is a purpose I have to devote to."

Te'o is a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints and expects to take a mission at some point, but he's not sure when.

"I¹m not sure if I¹m going to take it after next year or later on in life," Te'o said.

There is no age limit as to when Te'o needs to take the mission.
Te'o ranked fourth on the team in 2009 with 63 tackles including 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack and added one pass breakup. He played in all 12 games and started nine contests.

The 63 tackles recorded by Te'o were the most by a Notre Dame freshman since 1975 and the third most all time by an Irish freshman (Bob Golic, 82 tackles in 1975; Ross Browner, 68 tackles in 1973).

More importantly than the success on the field, Te'o says the it's the University life that influenced him to stay at Notre Dame.

"I think it¹s the connections I have been able to make with people and the ability I have to meet people and influence them for good," Te'o said. "I think that is a big factor in it."

"The coaching change didn't¹t have a factor. Football wasn't¹t a factor. It was strictly a spiritual thing for me."

In fact, Te'o says he has to to speak in-depth about his mission trip possibilities with new head coach Brian Kelly.

"I got to talk to him on two occasions and he¹s a really good guy," Te'o said of Kelly. "We talked about football and talked about life in general.
I respect him and have trust in him and I think he¹ll do a great job leading our team."

Te'o became a full-time starter for Notre Dame in the fifth game of the season against Washington and he ranked second on the Irish with 57 tackles over the final eight games (Safety Kyle McCarthy had 64 tackles in that stretch).

Te'o recorded 10 tackles against both Washington and Stanford and totaled nine tackles with 2.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup against Boston College.

A native of Laie, Hawaii, Te'o is enrolled in Notre Dame¹s First Year of Studies program.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Te'o to Decide on Mission Soon

 Brian Kelly has a tough job in rebuilding Notre Dame's shoddy defense.

That task would be even tougher without Manti Te'o, the former prized recruit who turned in a promising freshman season at linebacker. Te'o, who's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, may leave the Irish after this season to go on his two-year Mormon mission.

Te'o's father told Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune that the decision would come after Te'o finishes final exams this week.

"I think he's probably already come up with an answer,” Brian Te'o told the Tribune. “But he promised his mom and me that he'd let us know once he touched the ground here in Hawaii.”

The elder Te'o said his son "loves it in South Bend" and will definitely return to school if he does take his mission. Te'o could also opt to go on a one-year mission or remain in school for four years, according to Hansen's story.

It's a decision that Kelly and the Irish anxiously await.

The next time Notre Dame freshman linebacker Manti Te'o plays in a game for the Irish football team could be in Dublin, Ireland, against family friend and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo in 2012.

Or it could be next September against Purdue in the first game of the Brian Kelly Era of Notre Dame football. ... Or something in between.

Te'o is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it is tradition for members to take a two-year Mormon mission after turning 19. However, Te'o left open the possibility he may take a two-year mission, a one-year mission or make his Notre Dame experience his mission.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ngata Selected to "All-Fundamentals" Team

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was selected by USA Football and the NFL Players Association to the first "All-Fundamentals" Team.

The group -- selected by a six-person committee that included former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herman Edwards and former general manager and current USA Football chairman Carl Peterson -- includes 26 players honored for their commitment to fundamentals and service in their communities.

Ngata, the only Ravens players on that list, was selected for his footwork and leverage. He received a silver-colored helmet with "All-Fundamentals" listed on the side after practice today and will designate a youth or high school football program to receive a $1,500 equipment grant from USA Football.

"This is pretty cool," Ngata said. "I didn’t know I was getting this. This is pretty surprising. But it’s a great honor to get something like this. Definitely work hard to work on your fundamentals and technique. It’s great that I was able to get noticed."

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who introduced Ngata, sounded like a proud father.

"For a guy to get to be on the ‘All-Fundamentals’ Team and picked out by USA [Football] and by the National Football League Players Association, to me, might be one of the highest honors you can because that means that a guy who has tremendous talent – which we all know he has and Haloti has as much talent or more than anybody that plays the game – to be picked out as a guy who plays with great fundamentals says everything," Mattison said. "I’m honored to be a part of this guy’s world."

For more information on the “All-Fundamentals” Team including the other 25 players and video clips of each player, go to

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Paea on the NFL

 We congratulated defensive tackle Stephen Paea on his Morris Award (which goes to the Pac-10's best defensive lineman, as voted by Pac-10 offensive linemen. Paea was very happy. "A big accomplishment for me, and for my school,''  he said.

 I asked Paea if there were any NFL agents sniffing around his parents, wanting him to declare for the NFL draft (Paea has another year of eligibility left at OSU).

 "My family does all the talking to those people but my thoughts are I'm coming back,''  said Paea. "It's not something I should worry about. ... no agent has approached my dad.''

 I told Paea, who pound for pound is one of the strongest players in college football, about Nebraska behemoth and former Grant High star Ndamukong Suh's admission recently that he almost transferred to Oregon State.

  I said, Stephen, can you imagine you and Suh on the same defensive line?

  Big grin. "It would be crazy,'' said Paea. "Who do you double-team, me or him?


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Vainuku Wins Big 4 Offensive MVP

The Eureka football team was recognized by the Eureka City Council at its meeting Tuesday, then again by the Humboldt-Del Norte Conference when it released its all-league selections this week.

Soma Vainuku, the running back for the North Coast Section Division II champion Eureka Loggers, was named the Big 4 offensive MVP. He had 762 yards and 15 touchdowns in six games against Big 4 opponents and gained 2,202 yards and scored 38 touchdowns on the season, including the playoffs.

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Polamalu, Kemoeatu Will Sit Against Packers

As expected, the Steelers will be without All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu on Sunday against Green Bay, and coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that left guard Chris Kemoeatu also will miss the game. Kemoeatu has been battling right knee and right wrist injuries.

"It is an accumulation of injuries that has really rendered his play ineffective," Tomlin said.

Kemoeatu missed the Baltimore game Nov. 28 because of a strained MCL but returned against Oakland and Cleveland.

"We have a great deal of admiration for his willingness to play amid the circumstances," Tomlin said, "but just because he is willing doesn't mean it is the right thing to do."

Undrafted rookie free agent Ramon Foster will start in Kemoeatu's place.
» Polamalu will miss his fifth straight game and ninth of the year. He had an MRI on his knee the day before the Cleveland game, and it revealed the injury wasn't healed enough for him to be able to play.

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Taua Named Honorable Mention

 Nevada junior running back Vai Taua was named to Sports Illustrated's 2009 All-America team as an honorable mention.

Taua led the Wolf Pack with 1,359 yards on 172 carries for a 7.8 average with 10 touchdowns. Taua had a long of 89 and also caught 12 passes for 99 yards and two scores.

Taua and the Wolf Pack will play Southern Methodist University on Dec. 24 in the Hawaii Bowl.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Unga Might Skip Senior Year, Enter NFL Draft

 Could the Dec. 22 Las Vegas Bowl be the last time junior running back Harvey Unga dons a BYU uniform?

The Cougars' all-time leading rusher acknowledged this week that he is contemplating the possibility of forgoing his senior year in favor of next April's NFL draft.

"It's up in the air," Unga said.

For now, he's more concerned with the upcoming bowl game against Oregon State in Las Vegas.

"As far as I'm concerned, I've got one more college game this season to play. I'm focused on that," Unga said. "Whatever comes after that comes after that. I'm sticking around here. I'm here now. I've got one more game to worry about, then we'll figure everything out."

After BYU's 26-23 victory over Utah, offensive coordinator Robert Anae met with Unga, according to coach Bronco Mendenhall. Anae gave Unga "a number of people to talk to, that he trusts, that we trust, to give him the right advice," Mendenhall said.

Soon, Unga is expected to fill out paperwork and submit it to the NFL to gauge where he might go in the draft.

Unga has rushed for a school-record 3,396 yards in his career and has become the first BYU player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons.

"Once we get done with this bowl game, I'll see what doors are open and what opportunities are out there, then I'll take it from there," Unga said.

Asked about the factors that will play a part in his decision, Unga replied, "If I take the NFL evaluation, that will come a little into play, talking to the coaches and getting a feel for where they'll think I'll be and where I feel where I'll be in comparison to how the next season's going to come about. I don't know. I haven't really got much into it. I think talking to agents and getting a feel for what they think is a start for me and I'll take it from there and see how it all goes."

Said Mendenhall: "Harvey will take the time he needs. We have all the paperwork that needs to be submitted — that doesn't commit him to the draft, but allows it to be predicted as to where he will possibly fall in the draft, and where he might be selected. So that is in the process as well. But there isn't any decision that has been made to this point, and probably won't be until maybe after the holiday season."

OSU-BYU CONNECTIONS: The Las Vegas Bowl will be an Unga family reunion of sorts.

Harvey Unga has two cousins who play for Oregon State — twins Devin and Kevin Unga. They are freshmen linebackers.

"I talked to one of them (Sunday night)," Harvey Unga said. "The week before when we were trying to figure out who we would be playing, we were talking about it. I was giving him a hard time about maybe playing each other."

A pair of Beaver defensive tackles, junior Stephen Paea and senior Sioeli Nau, both played at Snow College with Cougar linebacker Coleby Clawson. Nau hails from Spanish Fork.

Meanwhile, BYU offensive line coach Mark Weber was the O-line coach at OSU from 1987-1990.

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas
BYU (10-2) vs.Oregon St. (8-4)
Dec. 22, 6 p.m.Sam Boyd Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two Stand Out For Quezada


Athlete Joshua Quezada (La Habra, Calif./La Habra) has now taken four of his official visits and with one remaining, two schools currently lead the way.
Quezada took his first visit to BYU followed by trips to Utah, Hawaii and Washington.

"We play this Saturday so it's going to be good to get a weekend off and sleep in for a change," Quezada said. "The trips get real tiring but I've loved every one of them. I'm going to take one last trip Dec. 18 to either Fresno State or Arizona and I may try and squeeze in an unofficial visit to San Diego State as well."

Quezada said he loved his recent visit to UW, but still favors the two Mountain West powers.

"Washington was awesome," Quezada said. "I had a great time with the players and really bonded well with the other recruits on the visit. We saw a great game and I like the energy and passion of the coaching staff. Coach Sark (Steve Sarkisian) said he thinks I could be another Troy Polamalu for them at safety and said I remind him of Troy since he was coaching at SC when he played there.

"As much as I liked the trip, I still have BYU and Utah at the top for me. I just felt most comfortable there and I'm closest with the coaches. With BYU, I love their offense, it's a lot like our offense at La Habra and it would be an easy adjustment.

"Utah felt like home to me as well and there's a real family environment. I felt that at both schools to be honest. It's going to be a really tough decision for me and I don't have a lot of time left since I'm graduating early but I know I can't go wrong with any of my choices."

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Peters Does Rugby: Changing Lanes

 The transition from American Football to rugby hasn't been an easy sprint for former Chicago Bears player Peters.

The Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens proved to be a surreal experience for Leonard Peters, the USA player who five months ago had never even watched a rugby game on TV.

American Football was what kept the 27-year-old busy and the only connection he shared with rugby was through his Samoan father.

Fast forward to December, Peters returns to America with "very good memories" from his debut international rugby outing.

Speaking to XPRESS, he said: "I had no expectations of playing at all coming into it. But I got to play all the games, I scored my first try, so I'm just enjoying every­thing about rugby right now."

Peters' love affair with rugby began soon after his zing for American Football started to evaporate upon being released by NFL side Chicago Bears last year.

He said: "When I was done playing American Football, coach [Al Caravelli] called me and asked if I wanted to play rugby. He told me there's a lot of running and hitting so I said, "OK, sign me up".

Describing the transition as "very difficult", the American Samoa-born Peters said: "Besides the fact that in rugby you can pass only backwards. I think the hardest thing is the fitness. In NFL, you run for nine seconds, then you rest 30 seconds. In rugby, you run for seven minutes straight. And if you get tired in American Football, you can come out and go back in later whereas in rugby you can't."

But Peters said he hardly misses donning the pads and helmet and would like to be an ambassador for rugby to American Football players currently out of work.

"Hopefully it sparks an interest in America to make rugby popular because I think it will be better for the whole world. There are a lot of football players who aren't playing now so instead of getting a regular job, they can come play rugby and try it out," he said before revealing his appreciation of the fanatical Dubai crowd.

"There's a lot more people in terms of a crowd in the NFL where the other team's fans will tease and heckle you. But they're not as crazy as the people here, in a good way. Here everyone's cheering for you whatever team you play for. Everyone's having fun, it's like a big party outside like Halloween. I'd love to be back. I've taken a lot of pictures which I'll take home to share with everybody in America," he said.

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Steelers ProBowl Safety Troy Polamalu Hopes For December Return

Troy Polamalu has become increasingly frustrated as the Steelers 5-time ProBowler has been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his team slip to 6-6 after he suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Polamalu who has sat out for the last four games says he’s not allowed to practice in any way and that the Steelers also won’t clear him to play, even if he wants to.

It has to be hard for a player who during the 2008-2009 season played in every game with 73 tackles on the season, seven interceptions and 59 yards gained from interceptions. One thing is for certain, Steelers fans can’t wait to get him back into play.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Wrestler 'Umaga' Edward Fatu Dies of Heart Attack; R.I.P.

 Wrestler Edward Fatu, better known as the hulking, tattooed WWE superstar "Umaga," died Friday of a heart attack in a Houston, Texas, hospital, a family friend said.

Born in American Samoa, Fatu, 36, was member of the famous Anoa'i wrestling family, which includes cousin Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, his two uncles, who wrestled as The Wild Samoans in the 1980s, and brothers, Sam "Tonga Kid" and Solofa Jr. "Rikishi," according to Wrestlers Rescue, a support group for retired professional wrestlers.

The two-time WWE Intercontinental champion, also known as "The Samoan Bulldozer," squared off with the likes of Triple H, The Game and Ric Flair before the WWE terminated in contract in June for having violated the WWE's Wellness Program and refusing to enter rehab, the WWE said on its site.

The organization offered its condolences to his family in a brief statement on its site.

To friends and family, Fatu was a devoted father who was looking forward to spending more time with his children after leaving the WWE.

"He had his demons, but he found a lot of strength in his family," said Dawn Marie Psaltis, family friend and founder of Wrestlers Rescue. "He was always a jokester, he was always playing a practical joke on someone. He comes from a long line of professional wrestlers and did his family proud."

R.I.P. Umaga!

Masoli Stays Calm To Lead Oregon

Jeremiah Masoli was calm and composed as he led the Oregon offense to the field for the final drive Thursday night.

His teammates and coaches have confidence in him and he showed why.

Masoli’s 6-yard run on a fourth-and-3 play with just more than three minutes in the game gave the Ducks a first down that allowed them to run the clock toward the finish.

Seventh-ranked Oregon secured one more first down to beat No. 13 Oregon State 37-33 and clinch the Pacific-10 Conference championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Ohio State.

The Ducks were down 30-21 early in the third quarter. Masoli was one of the big reasons his team came out on top.

“Composed like always,” receiver Jeff Maehl said of Masoli. “He’s a special guy. It’s amazing how much composure he has in these situations and the plays that he makes.”

The Ducks took the field with just more than six minutes to play and a four-point lead. Kick the ball back to the Beavers and they’d risk a shift in momentum.

But Masoli wouldn’t let the Ducks lose.

On that fourth down, a designed pass play, he found no open receivers and instead ran right toward the sideline. He made his way past the first-down marker before he went out of bounds.

“It was just him and the safety there and he made the play,” tight end Ed Dickson said.

Masoli finished 14 of 21 passing for 201 yards. His only touchdown and interception came in the first half.

He also rushed for 40 yards on 10 carries.

“Masoli showed great poise, which he has all season,” said running back LaMichael James. “He’s remarkable. He never panicked. After the interception, even after our fumble. He really is poised and a great leader for our program.”

Masoli had an efficient first half, with a 10-for-15 passing effort for 158 yards.

He also ran five times for 39 yards.

The interception came on the the third play of the game. The pass went off the outstretched hands of Dickson to Oregon State’s James Dockery, who returned the ball 16 yards to the Oregon 22.

The Beavers turned that into a touchdown seven plays later.

The touchdown was a 73-yarder to Maehl that put the Ducks ahead 14-10 with 3:46 left in the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, James was unable to secure a Masoli handoff. Oregon State recovered the fumble and used that to get a field goal for 16-14 lead.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Family Sustains Archbishop Murphy Lineman Taniela Tupou

Taniela Tupou has had a roller-coaster year.

The thrilling high for the Archbishop Murphy junior was his first Division I college football scholarship offer, from the University of Washington.

The gut-wrenching low was in May, when he had to resuscitate his grandfather, David Kekuaokalani, who collapsed at the dinner table, only to die a few days later.

This month, he buried his other grandfather, Fitu Tupou.

"For me, this year has been really emotional," said Tupou, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound lineman.

This weekend, Tupou leads the second-ranked Wildcats (11-1) of Everett into a Class 2A state semifinal game Saturday against No. 3 Lynden (11-1), which ended Archbishop Murphy's season last year.

Tupou, who goes by Tani (or Taani, the traditional spelling, which is on his letterman's jacket), won't have all the same familiar faces of some of his relatives cheering for him this weekend. But the 16-year-old has found another source of support: his teammates.

"This year, we have come together more as a family," said Tupou. "We look at each other as brothers."

And there's little doubt who the big brother is.

Tupou, who weighed 9 ½ pounds at birth, has never been overmatched physically. As early as the third grade, he had to play against older boys. Even now, he's getting looks at the next level. In addition to a UW offer, Tupou has received recruiting interest from BYU, Notre Dame and several Pac-10 schools as a defensive-line prospect.

"He's just naturally strong and he works hard in the weight room," Archbishop Murphy coach Dave Ward said.

Tupou, who isn't ready to select a college, does the fire-knife dance to represent his Polynesian culture and is only a couple badges from becoming an Eagle Scout. His involvement in both began as a child.

During spring football this year, he helped teach his team the haka, a traditional Polynesian dance.

And as a member of the LDS faith, he is involved in the church and is looking forward to taking a mission after high school.

"He has his hands dipped in so many things right now, and going on a mission is just another one of his goals," said Kawai Tupou, Taniela's mother. "He's just dealing with them one at a time."

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Civil War: Lyle Moevao's Season Has Been Lost But The Oregon State Senior Won't Be Defeated

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

When Lyle Moevao walked off the Reser Stadium field after last season’s Civil War, the Oregon State quarterback was already thinking about this year.

The 113th Civil War:
Oregon State
at Oregon
When: 6 p.m., Dec. 3
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene
More Oregon vs. Oregon State
Moevao had just tied a school record with five touchdown passes, but it didn’t mean much in the wake of Oregon’s 65-38 beatdown that killed the Beavers’ Rose Bowl hopes. He wanted another shot. He knew he would get it come 2009.

What he didn’t know, what no one could have anticipated, was that the 2009 version of the Civil War would be the biggest in history, that Oregon State would be going after revenge in Autzen Stadium with a trip to the Rose Bowl again on the line, this time for both teams. Also unknowable was that Moevao, the Beavers’ chatty, charismatic leader, would be on the sidelines for it.

For one of the most beloved seniors in Corvallis there couldn’t be a more heart-wrenching ending to a season in which little has gone as planned.


For all the passes he’s thrown in his college career (509) and all the touchdowns he’s been a part of (25) and all the yards he’s racked up (3,410), Lyle Moevao is probably best known for a nasty block that leveled a Washington defender in 2007 and sent the OSU crowd into a frenzy.

“I guess,” Moevao said with a laugh when reminded of that hit, “I’ve kinda been a fan favorite since I got here.”

In a town that has a history of booing its own quarterbacks, being a fan favorite is a rarity.

The Beaver fan base didn’t fall in love with Moevao because he had a cannon of an arm or deft running ability. They liked him because he was loud and boisterous and physical and played with a smile stretched across his face. In 2008, when the Beavers went on an unbelievable run toward the Rose Bowl, they rallied around their 5-foot-11, 225-pound leader, the guy just about everyone describes as “the heart and soul of our team.”

This season, while getting in for only one play because of devastating back-to-back injuries, Moevao has kept his head up and his smile visible.

It started in the spring, when Moevao underwent surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his throwing arm. It was an odd turn of events, considering quarterback Sean Canfield had gone through the same surgery the year before, allowing Moevao to step into the starting position.

“I’ve always been hoping for two, healthy senior quarterbacks and never got it,” OSU coach Mike Riley said.

Moevao, ever the optimist, thought he could be back throwing when fall camp started.

“The reality was that it was a slow process,” Moevao said. “A lot slower (than I anticipated).”

His goal was to get into one game. When he did, he decided to go all out.

Against Arizona on Sept. 26 Moevao ran in for one snap. Much to Moevao’s surprise, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf called a passing play. Figuring Langsdorf didn’t realize he was in, Moevao broke the huddle quickly and took the snap before any coach could change his mind. He fired an incomplete pass to Jordan Bishop before running back to the sideline as the crowd went crazy.

“Coach Langs told me after the game, ‘I called that play thinking Sean was in and when I saw you break the huddle I was like, Oooooh!’” Moevao laughed. “He knew exactly what I was gonna do.

“It was worth it though … the fact that the crowd was cheering for me and even my teammates were hyped about me going deep. Sean got a little laugh out of it after the game. I can definitely live with that, if that’s how I go out.”

At the time, no one thought it would be the last they saw of Moevao on the field.


Just over a month after the Arizona game, Moevao was the victim of a freak accident at practice when a defensive lineman fell on his right foot during drills. Initially, Moevao thought he could just walk it off. An MRI reveled the worst-case scenario — Moevao had torn ligaments, and would need season-ending surgery. The news crushed everyone around the Valley Football Center.

“It was hard. I had never had surgery before my shoulder, having two back-to-back …” Moevao said, his voice trailing off as he paused to wipe tears from his eyes

“As long as I was around my team I was fine but as soon as I went home during those first four days, I don’t know, it was weird. I’d go home and just cry.”

The day he found out, Moevao wrote on his Twitter page, "Sometimes I look up at the sky and ask why. But I know it's all for a reason. Gotta stay positive, even when it's pouring.''

OSU plans to file a request to the NCAA for a medical hardship, which would earn Moevao another year, but few are optimistic it will be granted. Moevao hasn’t accepted that he might not play football again.

“Until I hear it (from the NCAA) or I get another three surgeries in a row, I’ll always have that drive to continue on,” he said.


If he was in a funk, it didn’t last long.

Since his foot surgery, Moevao has been at practice almost every day, acting as a one-man cheerleading crew. He bangs his crutches together when he cheers, whoops and hollers when the defense makes a nice play, and talks to Canfield constantly.

“A lot of people would probably fall in the hole and never recover from things like this, especially having back-to-back surgeries,” Moevao said. “But I think that going to practice, being able to stay involved like I would if I weren’t hurt, it helps me, and it’s helping the team.”

His presence has drawn praise from teammates and coaches alike.

"I don't know how he does it," said Joe Halahuni, Moevao's roommate. "It'd be tough for me, as a senior, missing the rest of the season, being at practice every day, watching everybody and still being encouraging. He's a leader on and off the field, and he shows it."

Moevao's leadership has not gone unnoticed, especially by Riley. Two weeks ago on Senior Day the coach wrapped his injury-riddled quarterback in a hug and held on for a while. There’s no doubt the two are close, and it’s hard for Riley to not get emotional when talking about Moevao.

“They’re all special but for what he has meant to this team, I have a special appreciation,” Riley said. “He’s a heart and soul guy, there’s no doubt about it. He’s been a leader for this team, almost from day one … He’s got a magnetic personality, he’s a guy for every guy and he’ll still be that guy even though he’s not playing.

“He hasn’t changed a bit. He’s out here at practice every day, signaling and doing anything he can do to help, which is exactly what Lyle would do, but what not too many guys could do.”


It’s fitting that Moevao’s favorite memory at Oregon State involves the Civil War.

In 2007, Moevao stood facing the end zone just as the first overtime ended in what would turn out to be a double-overtime Oregon State victory. While OSU fans squirmed nervously in a corner of Autzen Stadium, Moevao took off his helmet and drank in the atmosphere with – what else? – a smile across his face.

“You don’t really get that feeling anytime in your life, double overtime, so many streaks on the line,” Moevao remembered. “It was big for me and I was just happy, taking it all in, living in the moment.”

He said he’ll live in the moment again this week, even if it’s on the sidelines and not in the huddle.

“It’ll be different than any other Civil War I’ve been involved with but at the same time, I’ll be playing the game through my teammates,” Moevao said. “As long as I can get my teammates prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for this game, then I’ve done my job.

“Physically I’ll obviously be limited, but it doesn’t limit me to what I can say.”

And as OSU players, coaches and fans have learned, Moevao’s impact – with or without words – is a lot.

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Catching Up With: Simi Toeaina

The Oregon Daily Emerald caught up with senior defensive lineman Simi Toeaina after practice this week to discuss everything from his relationship with his cousin Jeremiah Masoli to his home in American Samoa. Here’s what he had to say:

Oregon Daily Emerald: Tell me a little bit about being cousins with Jeremiah Masoli.

Simi Toeaina: It’s great. We’re together before practice, during and after, so it’s really good.

ODE: Do you live with him or any other guys on the team?

ST: No, I live on my own. But friends are always coming around my spot so it’s not too bad.

ODE: What do you do as far as cooking goes?

ST: A lot of rice. Got to have fresh rice every day.

ODE: So what do you like to do outside of football?

ST: Just hang out mostly.

ODE.: All right, well, what about music? What kind of music are you listening to these days?

ST: I listen to a lot of reggae. Obviously Bob Marley and a few others.

ODE: What about movies?

ST: Yeah I like movies. My favorites are Gladiator and 300.

ODE: Now I understand you’ve done some relief work back in Samoa. Tell me a little bit about that.

ST: Yeah. The team organized a food drive for some of the villages back in American Samoa after the tsunami hit. We have quite a few guys on the team that have family there. (The fundraiser raised nearly 18 tons of food, water, and medical supplies for those in need.)

ODE: So now after five years this will finally be your last run out of the Autzen tunnel. What’s that going to be like for you?

ST: It’ll be emotional. But it’s going to have to last for just that moment, because once it’s game time you’ve got to stay focused.

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WHAT'S IN YOUR LOCKER: Afalava Has Brush With Fame

Who knew that football players were so hygienic? Well, maybe not every football player, but Bears safety Al Afalava certainly fits the description if his locker is any indication.

Afalava, 22, has registered 39 tackles and two sacks as a rookie starter for the Bears. The sixth-round draft pick out of Oregon State received no promises that he would make the team this summer, but he has earned the respect of his coaches and teammates with a quiet confidence and a devoted work ethic.

Bears reporter Tom Musick spoke with Afalava before a recent practice.

OK, so the first thing I notice when I look in your locker is the toothpaste on your top shelf.

Yeah, right there. So what’s the story? Do you brush your teeth after practice?
Oh, yeah. I brush my teeth after practice, after I shower. I don’t know [why]. I just like brushing my teeth.

Where did that start? Did that come from your mom or dad emphasizing that all the time? Not everybody brushes their teeth in the middle of the day.
Yeah, I started it during college and just carried it through with me. If I take a shower, I might as well freshen up and brush my teeth again.

Do your teammates give you grief for that?
No, I mean, a lot of guys do it. I see a lot of guys, they’ll be brushing their teeth after practice.

Maybe you could turn this into a big endorsement with Crest or something.
(Laughs and shakes his head)

So is that your favorite brand?
Oh, I mix it up.

Based on whatever’s cheapest?
Whatever my wife buys. (Laughs)

How about your little guy? Did you have to teach him to brush his teeth, too? (Afalava has a 2-year-old son, Darius.)
Oh, yeah. My son is already doing it on his own, so he doesn’t need any help from me.

What about the rest of your locker? Am I missing anything else unique in here?
No, I mean, it’s just a mess right now. Just clothes and stuff. Nothing big.

I see your playbook up there.
Yeah, I take that home with me.

Is this locker room a lot different than college? Was your locker room a lot more crowded there?
No, our locker room was rebuilt. We did it in numerical order, though. (The Bears assign lockers according to positional groups.)

Have you brought your kids into the locker room yet to show off their dad’s office?
(Laughs) No, not yet. I’m a rookie, so I’ll try to get some years under my belt before I can start bringing my kids here.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

For Civil War Quarterbacks Masoli & Canfield, Different Styles Yield Similar Results

At first glance, Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and Oregon State's Sean Canfield couldn't be more different.

One is right-handed; one left-handed.

One is short and stocky; the other tall and lanky.

The 113th Civil War:
Oregon State
at Oregon
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene
More Oregon vs. Oregon State
One is a punishing runner; the other doesn't run.

One has the fewest completions in the Pacific-10 Conference; the other, the most.

Where Masoli and Canfield come together is where this Civil War separates itself. Both are vastly improved, and both are ready — or else this would not be a War of the Roses.

"It doesn't matter how you get there," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

And it doesn't matter how long it takes you to get there, either. Masoli will be playing in his second Civil War after joining the Ducks 19 months ago. Canfield has played in 33 games for the Beavers and has yet to throw a ball in a Civil War battle.

"I've never been more excited for a football game," Canfield said. "I've never played in a Civil War so I'm really looking forward to it."

Masoli, who threw 17 times against the Beavers last year and racked up 274 passing yards and three touchdowns, is very excited, too — although nobody would ever know it.

"On a scale of one to 10," Masoli said, "10."

Still, the excitement edge has to go to Canfield.

"Every minute, at some point," he said, "it crosses my mind."

As for the edge in quarterbacking, it's safe to say that neither team would be willing to trade.

"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a quarterback in the country, for our style of offense, making better decisions," offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said of Masoli.

Masoli made huge strides last season, his first since playing a year of junior college ball. In his first eight games of 2008, Masoli averaged 5.4 yards per attempt. In the last four games — all wins — it was 10.2 yards.

Early in 2009 he struggled again. Against Utah, he was 4 of 16 and losing support from fans.

"A lot of people were asking for a new quarterback at the beginning of the season when he just didn't have it," tight end Ed Dickson said. "He changed everybody's mind. He's a great battler."

Since then Masoli has been on a roll. He also has been at his best against the best competition, averaging 22 of 35 passing for 273 yards against California, USC, Stanford and Arizona.

But it's in the running game where Masoli has made the greatest strides — even with that mysterious knee injury that forced him out of the UCLA game. He is running with even greater authority, even if he hasn't topped the highlight-reel hit he dished out against Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl.

"His progression's been pretty astounding, actually," backup quarterback Nate Costa said. "He runs the ball tough, which is kind of rare for quarterbacks. That toughness that he has gives us is a little something extra people have to prepare for."

His ballhandling has improved markedly, allowing him to blow by confused defenders. In practice, he even fakes out coaches, who lose track of the ball. And he has jelled with his offensive line.

"I know what he's going to do behind me," lineman Mark Asper said. "Jeremiah, more than anybody, runs a certain way. He sets up defenders really well, where he moves one way and cuts back the other way. He goes this way, and I know Jeremiah's going to go the other way, so as soon as the defender goes one way, I go, 'OK,' push and accelerate and go."

Masoli averages 5.9 yards per carry, better than Florida's Tim Tebow or Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor or even Stanford running back Toby Gerhart or Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers.

Numbers don't tell the story, though. When he struggled early in the season, defense and special teams came to the rescue. Since then, Masoli has taken care of things himself.

"He can get you out of tough situations, like the Arizona game," said defensive tackle Simi Toeaina, Masoli's cousin. "He was never nervous. As a defense, we knew if we did our job, that Jeremiah would lead us to victory."

Masoli has been as calm as ever this week, smiling at comments made by OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao, a friend of Masoli's who popped off last week on Twitter about a payback for last year's 65-38 win by Oregon.

"I don't have any response, man," Masoli said. "Actions speak louder than words."

Moevao has been in for one play in an injury-filled 2009. It has been an opportunity seized for Canfield.

"I've never been more excited for a football game," says Oregon State's Sean Canfield, who will be playing in his first Civil War on Thursday night.In OSU's first two wins, Canfield was 33 of 42. He has a 70.3 completion percentage rate, one of four quarterbacks in the nation above 70 percent. In no game this season has Canfield completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes — a mark Masoli has failed to reach more often than not.

"You've just all seen a guy grow up right before your eyes this year," Riley said after Canfield completed 21 of 29 passes against Washington three weeks ago. "It's pretty phenomenal."

Oregon coach Chip Kelly called Canfield the best quarterback Oregon will face this season, and that includes Boise State's Kellen Moore, a Heisman hopeful, and Stanford's rising star Andrew Luck.

"The quarterback complements what they do in the running game," Kelly said. "You can't just gang up on the run because Canfield can hurt you."

Moore came into Autzen Stadium last season as a freshman and beat the Ducks. Canfield makes his first appearance there, as a senior, on Thursday night.

"It's a great stage for us," Canfield said. "Our team in those situations, it rises to those occasions."

He sounds pretty unflappable.

That's one thing the two quarterbacks have in common.

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