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BYU football: BYU-Oregon State means family reunion for twin brothers Uani and Feti 'Unga

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 4:32 a.m. MDT

BYU's Uani Unga, right, hauls down Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton last Friday.    (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's Uani Unga, right, hauls down Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton last Friday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — Twin brothers Uani and Feti 'Unga grew up playing football together.

This weekend, they'll play against each other for the first time.

Uani 'Unga, a junior, is BYU's backup middle linebacker, and Feti 'Unga, a senior, is Oregon State's starting middle linebacker. They both wear No. 41. And their teams collide Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, ABC) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Any brotherly banter going on this week in anticipation of the big game?

"He hasn't said anything," Uani said Monday with a smile. "I try to throw it out there and try to get a little argument going, but he hasn't said anything."

Uani actually started his college career at Oregon State before transferring to BYU prior to the 2011 season. On Saturday, not only is Uani facing his twin brother, but also his former teammates and coaches. Among his friends on the OSU team is Beaver star wide receiver Markus Wheaton.

BYU's #41 Uani Unga, right, sacks USU's Quarterback Chucki Keeton as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo Utah. BYU won 6-3. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's #41 Uani Unga, right, sacks USU's Quarterback Chucki Keeton as BYU and Utah State play Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo Utah. BYU won 6-3. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

"It feels a little weird, but it feels good," Uani said of facing Oregon State. "I mean, I've got love for all my boys back there."

Uani said he's glad to see that OSU, ranked No. 10 in the nation, is unbeaten at this stage of the season after posting a disappointing 3-9 record last year.

"I watch them every week. It's nice to see them doing good," he said. "I was surprised that they struggled last year. Then to see them come back, I was kind of expecting it. I know (quarterback) Sean Mannion from his first year, he redshirted. I remembered him being on scout offense and he was doing great. I felt like he needed a year maybe to build up. He's showing how he's getting things done."

On Monday, however, Oregon State coach Mike Riley announced that Mannion is out with a knee injury and will miss Saturday's game. But Uani knows that the Beavers will be tough to beat, even without Mannion. OSU's defense, led by defensive coordinator Mark Banker, is No. 4 in the nation in rushing defense.

Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Uani Unga (41) holds his daughter for a photo after beating Washington State in Provo  Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Uani Unga (41) holds his daughter for a photo after beating Washington State in Provo Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"Coach Banker is a great guy," Unga said. "He knows his defense and he knows how to work. I'm not surprised by how his defense is doing this year."

'Unga enjoyed his time in Corvallis, Ore., playing for Banker and Riley. But his decision to transfer to BYU was a family matter. His life changed after he and his wife Lachelle, an Orem native, got married.

"Being at school and practice kept me away from home 13 hours in a day," he explained. "My wife got pregnant and we kind of figured we'd move closer to her family so they could help out and I could go to school and do football and focus there and not have to worry about my immediate family."

Uani said "it's hard to say" if there are negative feelings at OSU about his decision to transfer to BYU.

"I would think there would be, but knowing coach Riley, he's a different guy," Unga said. "I couldn't see him being mad at anybody. He's a good guy. A lot of players go there because of him. He knows how to treat players."

Uani said there's not a lot of differences between BYU and Oregon State, other than there are more Polynesians and Mormons in Provo.

"They have a nice program up there," he said of OSU. "The coaches are really good. I thought some of the coaches were members of the (LDS) Church because of the way they coach and are strong in their own churches."

Uani and Feti, who grew up in California but finished their high schools careers at Kahuku High in Hawaii, arrived in Corvallis together after their missions. Uani served in Guatemala, and Feti served in Chile.

When BYU played at Oregon State last October, Uani traveled from Provo to Corvallis, paying his own way, to watch his brother. Uani could not play for the Cougars last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Feti 'Unga sustained a sprained left knee on the first play against BYU and missed the next three games. At the time, he was among the Pac-12's leading tacklers. BYU beat OSU, 38-28.

Games between the Cougars and Beavers always seem to turn into family reunions. In 2009, BYU and OSU met in the Las Vegas Bowl, and the Beavers' 'Unga twins faced their second cousin, Cougar running back Harvey Unga. As it turned out, it was Harvey Unga's final game in a BYU uniform, and the Cougars won, 44-20. Harvey is the all-time leading rusher in school history.

Last Friday, Uani 'Unga had his chance to shine, helping BYU preserve a 6-3 win over Utah State. On the Aggies' final drive, he recorded a 9-yard sack of quarterback Chuckie Keeton. USU ended up punting and never got the ball back.

"It kind of felt like déja vu. We kind of did the same play in practice," 'Unga said of the sack. "There was a big hole. In practice it looked exactly the same. It felt pretty good."

Of course, Saturday's BYU-OSU showdown will be a family affair for the 'Ungas.

This season, Feti 'Unga wears "Taumoepeau" on the back of his jersey as a tribute to the Ungas' mother, Ofa, whose maiden name is Taumoepeau. Feti and Uani have seven siblings.

"If it wasn't for my mom ... pushing us, waking us every morning for games on Saturdays and after school, getting us ready to go to practice and stuff," Feti Unga told The Oregonian. "She's been there throughout the whole journey, so one year out of all these years I've been playing, I'll use my mom's name."

Meanwhile, more than two dozen family members are expected to attend Saturday's game in Provo, sporting their own BYU-OSU shirts — in support of both Uani and Feti 'Unga.

Cougars on the air

No. 10 Oregon State (4-0) at BYU (4-2)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

TV: ABC Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

email: jeffc@desnews.com

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