MADISON, Wis. — Senior Uani ‘Unga continued to do what great middle linebackers do in BYU’s disappointing 27-17 loss to No. 21 Wisconsin Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium.
Playing against the best running attack the Cougars have faced all season, ‘Unga had double-digit tackles by halftime and ended up with 15 for the game. He finished with seven solo tackles, one for a loss of yardage.
‘Uani’s increased his season total to a team-leading 101 after the Wisconsin battle at Camp Randall. He had 17 against USU, 10 in the Georgia Tech game, 13 at Houston and 17 against Boise State.
Wisconsin featured two of the nation’s top running backs in Melvin Gordon and James White. White, who scored three touchdowns and is the nation’s active leader in rushing touchdowns, had 150 yards on 23 carries. Gordon, who led the nation in yards per carry at 8.7 before Saturday, had 19 carries for 86 yards, a 4.5 average.
Any success the Cougars had in holding Wisconsin’s No. 10 ranked rushing attack to 58 yards below its average could be attributed to ‘Unga’s effort, especially when his playing mate inside, Spencer Hadley, left the field with a knee injury two minutes into the game.
“He’s a great player and we missed his ability and intensity,” said Cougar senior Eathyn Manumaleuna of the loss of Hadley. Daniel Sorensen and Craig Bills had nine tackles and Kyle Van Noy had eight with an interception.
The injury to Hadley hurt.
That put more pressure on ‘Unga and his replacement, Tyler Beck.
Mendenhall said he knew coming to Wisconsin that the Badger duo would be tough to handle and after seeing White and Gordon in person, it confirmed how good they were.
“One of our best tacklers on the team is Robertson Daniel, and he missed an open field tackle (against White), and that tells you a lot.”
The game featured the only two teams in the country that have two rushers averaging more than 100 yards a game. White got his, with 147 and Gordon fell short with 86. For the Cougars, quarterback Taysom Hill, BYU’s rushing leader, gained 66 but lost 13 on sacks for 53 and Jamaal Williams gained 76, both under their averages.
“This was a big, physical football team we played today,” said Hill. “It came down to us making little mistakes in the first half. You can’t do that against a team like this.”
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.