Continuing our 2011 football season in review, Brett Hein honors each player in the departing senior class.
This is the hard part of college football -- every year, somewhere around 25% of your team "retires." Here's an ode to each departing senior.
#1 JORDAN PENDLETON - LB
You could never stay healthy, Jordan, but man were you fun to watch. Even when it was clear you were slowed -- your constantly-being-drained knees had noticeably slowed you down when we saw you play in person at Oregon State -- you were still fun to watch. Your physicality was awesome, but your body betrayed you.
The first time I heard of Jordan Pendleton, he was a defensive back who caused a firestorm by calling Jaime Hill a prick in front of some media members during fall camp. Remember that? (For some weird reason I love him for that.) The first time all of us really got to see Pendleton play was in the opener of the 2009 season against Oklahoma in Cowboys Stadium. Both his 2010 and 2011 seasons were cut short due to leg injuries. But I'll always remember the 2009 Pendleton, characterized by two awesome plays he made in the six-play goal line stand against OU. With the Sooners threatening to realistically put the game away, Pendleton anchored the D that kept OU out of the endzone. In this video you see the plays, a great spin off a block to make a tackle on 2nd down. Then, after a pass interference call in the endzone gave OU a new set of downs, you see Pendleton with a stellar pass breakup on 1st down. That's the Pendleton I'll always remember.
Career Totals: 98 tackles, 18 for loss ... 9 sacks ... 2 INTs ... 1 forced fumble ... 1 fumble return for TD ... 5 pass breakups ... 8 QB hurries
#6 MCKAY JACOBSON - WR
Oh, McKay. I'm going to try and be as nice as possible. As a freshman in 2006, Jacobson was the promising freshman kick returner and speed receiver, and returned a punt for a touchdown. While he didn't catch more than three balls in any game as a freshman, he did reel in 105 yards and 81 yards in two big games that year. Strangely, Jacobson caught more touchdown passes as a freshman (3) than he did as a junior and senior combined (2). Stranger still is that his best games since he returned from his mission all occurred in BYU's worst losses -- 111 yards (that year's yardage high) in a 2009 loss to Florida State; 85 yards on 8 catches (that year's reception high and 2nd in yardage) in a 2010 loss to Utah State; and six catches (that year's single-game high) in the 2011 loss to Utah. I'd give props for the game winner against OU, but that play was really more about Dennis Pitta's dominance than Jacobson. The longer Jacobson's career went, the worse it seemed to get. It's sad, and not trying to be a hater, but it's true. He dropped a lot of passes. Don't get me wrong, Jacobson was good, just wasn't what many expected him to be in the end. Perhaps we had the wrong expectations.
But to send him out on a positive note, let's remember McKay for his solid freshman offering, and for his performance in the 2010 Utah game. A lot gets forgotten in that game because of the blocked field goal that left BYU on the wrong end of a 17-16 score, the performance of Jake Heaps with cracked ribs being one of them. The other was McKay Jacobson, who had seven catches for 92 yards and a great touchdown catch. Without one great play from Brandon Burton, Jacobson has a claim to be MVP of that game.
Career Totals: 113 receptions for 1,836 receiving yards and 9 TDs ... 18 punt returns for 137 yards and 1 TD ... 16 kick returns for 298 yards.
#10 J.J. DILUIGI - RB
DiLuigi will leave Provo having been a success for an undersized back, but may also leave having been a misused talent in his final season. He was best as an inside runner from spread/shotgun formations, but was used often in runs to the outside as a senior -- this while his targets as a receiver were diminished. His role as a pass-catching back was his strong suit, and he was very good at it. As a sophomore playing behind Harvey Unga, DiLuigi found a niche as a pass catcher, pulling in 270 receiving yards and 4 TDs, most notably a 94-yard receiving game at Wyoming which he capped off with a riverdance jig in the endzone (by far one of the worst TD celebrations I've ever seen. If you are going to get flagged, make it worth it).
He scored 11 touchdowns in 2010 as a junior and fell just short of 1,000 rushing yards, easily his best year as a Cougar, stepping up to the starting role with an early Unga departure. He also added 45 catches for 443 yards that year. But as a senior, he caught 18 fewer passes and had 62 less rushing attempts, as it seemed a bit easier for Michael Alisa to succeed in Brandon Doman's offense. DiLuigi was serviceable and had big shoes to fill. We'll miss you, you helmet-to-head banging kid.
Career Stats: 1,797 rushing yards and 14 TDs on 352 carries ... 990 receiving yards and 5 TDs on 96 receptions ... 14 kickoff returns for 326 yards.
#19 MATT MARSHALL - WR
Marshall posted very few stats as a Cougar, and I wish the former quarterback would have had a few more opportunities to take some snaps. Marshall would run the option for the scout team anytime the Cougars played Air Force. Judging by the way BYU's defense usually knew exactly how to stop Air Force is a nod to Marshall (more Bronco Mendenhall, but a slight nod to Marshall). He was also the holder for the field goal unit. The biggest play of Marshall's career was last year. At 1-4, the Cougars' season was on life support. In the first quarter of a home game against San Diego State, Marshall fired a fake-field-goal strike to Mike Muehlmann for 16 yards that set BYU up at SDSU's 16-yard line. BYU would score five plays later to cap a massive 19-play drive to take an early 7-0 lead. The Cougars would win that game 24-21 -- so perhaps one play by Matt Marshall got 6-6 BYU to a bowl game in 2010.
Career Totals: 1 rush for 2 yards and 1 TD ... 2-3 passing for 21 yards ... 1 blocked kick ... 12.5 tackles
#23 TRAVIS UALE - S
Travis Uale was a solid safety. He always seemed to be schematically sound, always in correct position. This year, for example, the longer passing plays BYU gave up were usually to the other side of the field, not Uale's side. Travis looked for big hits, too, and delivered a few through the years. Oft times you wouldn't really notice Uale making tons of plays, but I never noticed him for poor play either. In short, he was a perfect safety for a Mendenhall defense -- position mastery. Uale's best game as a senior was probably at Texas, when he intercepted a pass, made 5 solo tackles and 4 assisted in very good run-game support.
Career Stats: 3 interceptions ... 5 pass breakups ... 76.5 tackles
#25 CORBY EASON - CB
It was feast or famine many times with Corby Eason. He was good at breaking up passes ... most times. But he was usually good to give up a deep ball in a bad way, at least when opponents seemed to notice while scouting the BYU defense. Last year as a junior, Eason became a favorite to use on a corner blitz, something the BYU defense didn't do a lot of prior to that season. That's how I'll remember Corby Eason, as the guy who sacked Andy Dalton in the first half at TCU while the BYU defense was gaming hard against the eventual Rose Bowl champs. After BYU took a 14-0 lead last year against UTEP, the Miners returned a kickoff all the way to BYU's 22-yard line. Eason blitzed from the corner on first down to sack Trevor Vittatoe for 10 yards, which helped hold UTEP to a field goal, keeping them from getting a big emotional boost.
Career Stats: 17 pass breakups ... 3 forced fumbles ... 3.5 sacks ... 66 tackles, 7.5 for loss.
#31 AVENI LEUNG-WAI - LB
A junior-college transfer, Leung-Wai could never stick in the rotation at linebacker in his two years in Provo. I remember thinking he had really good promise in his first game as a Cougar, the home win against Washington. On a play where Jake Locker looked like he would pick up the edge on a scramble, I remember Leung-Wai chased the athletic QB down laterally for a minimal game. But he would only appear in 13 of his 26 games at BYU, and only 4 this year as a senior.
Career Stats: 10 tackles
#33 BRYAN KARIYA - RB
Kariya made his hay in Provo as a reliable short-yardage back, a job at which he became very good. Kariya broke himself in to BYU fans in the 2009 opener against Oklahoma, as with Harvey Unga sidelined with a hamstring injury, Kariya and DiLuigi were called upon. BK was huge, rushing for 42 yards and catching 4 passes for 76 yards in the upset victory. He never rushed for 100 yards in any game, and that OU game was probably BK's best, statistically. His game high was 88, which he hit twice in 2010. His carries dropped in half as a senior, as Michael Alisa emerged as the best high-quantity running back and as Riley Nelson used more carries than a BYU QB normally does. But Kariya still matched his previous year's total of six touchdowns. Kariya rarely fumbled and picked up plenty of first downs.
Career Stats: 1,101 rushing yards and 15 TDs on 278 carries ... 417 receiving yards and 3 TDs on 54 receptions ... 1 blocked kick.
#41 MATT PUTNAM - DE
In a strange career turn, Putnam struggled to stay academically eligible in this, his final year. The tall defensive end from Brigham City (where yours truly took a big fly to the warning track against him in high school baseball -- I was a second baseman, so yes, I'm bragging about warning track power) had received lots of playing time in 2010, and with his height had been batting down a good share of passes. But he then missed the first 5 games of 2011 while he worked out his eligibility, played in the next 7, only to be ineligible again when the semester ended, forcing him to miss the final bowl game of his career. I'll remember Putnam for his interception against UCLA in 2008, where he tipped the pass to himself at the UCLA 25, and instead of running for daylight, locked in on Bruin QB Kevin Craft like Schwarzenegger's model of Terminator and tried to plow him over. Putnam was remarkably productive when he was on the field, but it seems discipline issues kept him from being a regular contributor.
Career Stats: 54.5 tackles, 11 for loss ... 1 interception ... 3 forced fumbles ... 11 pass breakups
#48 JAMESON FRAZIER - LB
Frazier hardly played at all until last year, his junior season. He was often outshone by Kyle Van Noy and Jordan Pendleton in the last two years, but was quietly a solid part of a great group of linebackers and was a team captain this season.
Career Stats: 49.5 tackles, 10.5 for loss ... 3 sacks ... 2 interceptions
#49 JADON WAGNER - LB
Wagner's career was much like Frazier's: he awaited his turn until upper-classmen left, and took his turn as a junior and senior. He, too, split his time on the field due to BYU's bounty of talent at linebacker, but was a solid contributor.
Career Stats: 57.5 tackles, 12 for loss ... 1 forced fumble
#62 MARCO THORSON - OL
Thorson was a solid rotational player for the BYU offensive line. He often gave way to others in a starting role, but was often the first off the bench if injury took a starter out, which meant Thorson saw plenty of time in the trenches. BYU's O-line has been pretty solid for several seasons, and it's guys like Thorson who helped it to be that way.
#70 MATT REYNOLDS - OL
One of the best offensive line prospects in recent BYU history, Reynolds chose to return to BYU to graduate and play his senior year. Offensive lineman usually don't make names for themselves other than "not giving up sacks," but Reynolds one-upped his fellow linemen when he peeled back to block for a scrambling Riley Nelson without his helmet on, destroyed his target, and Nelson threw for a touchdown. You've been a rock, Matt, and I'm sure Riley Nelson and BYU fans will miss you anchoring the left side.
#83 SPENCER HAFOKA - WR
Hafoka always seemed like a sure-handed receiver, a reliable receiver. But his best season was as a sophomore, when he caught 16 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown -- his playing time dwindled after that. This season, he did not catch one pass, but did get a rushing attempt on an end-around. I would have loved to see him get more time as a Cougar, but it's hard to do so if it means keeping someone like Cody Hoffman off the field.
Career Stats: 22 catches for 200 yards and 1 TD ... 1 rush for 18 yards
#89 MATT EDWARDS - TE
It's a tough life at BYU when you are a less-talented tight end. It means sitting the bench behind Dennis Pitta and Andrew George your whole career. But the grandson of Saint LaVell did get his moment in the sun, catching a touchdown pass on senior day this year.
Career Stats: 1 reception for 9 yards and 1 TD.
#91 HEBRON FANGUPO - DL
People throw around this word a lot these days, but when I say it about the man called Loni, I mean it: the dude was a BEAST. I wish we had the opportunity to have seen the USC transfer for more than one season at BYU. But it was a good one. Thanks Reggie Bush! Fangupo clogged the middle for one of the best run defenses in the country and made some great plays in the run game.
Career Stats: 19 tackles, 6 for loss ... 2 pass breakups ... 3 QB hurries
#93 SIMOTE VEA - DL
Vea saw limited action in his two years in Provo, seeing spot duty due to injury or when starters were gassed.
Career Stats: 4 tackles, 2 for loss ... 1 QB hurry.
There sure are some great memories from this bunch. Leave some of yours below if I missed your favorite.