The BYU football team, fresh from a bye week, was set to enter today's key WAC contest against defending champion Colorado State with a relatively healthy, full compliment of players.
But two major contributors - one on each side of the ball - didn't make the trip to the east side of the Rockies. Tight end/running back Itula Mili and defensive tackle Mike Ulufale were suspended from the team Friday for four games after committing unspecified honor code violations.Game time between the 1-2 Cougars (1-1 WAC) and 2-1 Rams (1-0 WAC) is set for noon.
All students at the LDS Church owned school sign an honor code stating, among other things, they will obey the laws of the land and abstain from alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco and sexual relations outside of marriage.
Now the big question is how the suspensions will affect the team's psyche. Will the loss of two of their stars demoralize the the troops? Or will it give them extra incentive against the Rams - sort of a `win one for Itula & Mike attitude?'
Cougar coach LaVell Edwards said Friday he didn't want to comment on the suspensions.
It is another blow to the Cougars, who were hit hard during the summer when five football players were expelled from school for breaking the honor code. Mili and Ulufale have not been expelled and can return to the team prior to the Nov. 4 home game against Tulsa, but their grant-in-aid awards for fall semester have been stripped.
Mili's loss will be particularly hard for the Cougars to overcome. The 6-4, 235-pound junior is the team's leading receiver (20 catches, 234 yards, two touchdowns) and is second on the team in rushing (11 carries for 26 yards). With Mili gone, running backs Mark Atuaia and Tefua Bloomfield and tight end Tom Baldwin will see more action.
The Cougar running game, which has been near non-existent, may suffer in Mili's absence. BYU is last in the nation in rushing, averaging six yards per game. The Cougars have carried the ball 78 times for 18 yards for an average of approximately eight inches per attempt.
Still, CSU coach Sonny Lubick is afraid the Cougars will break out on the ground this week.
"Everybody talks about how they don't have a running game, but that makes me shutter because I really believe with the week off that they had they'll crank that running game up," Lubick said. "If they start running that draw play and the sweep for six or seven yards per pop and then start throwing the ball, we're in for a long day. They'll score 35 or 40 points. We've got to shut down their running game."
Meanwhile, the Rams will be attempting to establish their running attack with E.J. Watson (97 yards per game) and Damon Washington (49 ypg) leading the way. The Cougs will have to try to slow down CSU's offense without Ulufale, who was in his second season as a starter after transferring from San Bernardino Valley College.
Ulufale, a 6-5, 290-pound senior, is fifth on the team in defensive points this season with 13 tackles, two pass deflections and four hurries. Henry Bloomfield (6-3, 290) is a capable player who will start in Ulufale's place, but the defensive line depth will be hurt.
GAME NOTES: Most Utahns will have no way of watching or listening to the game live because BYU's flagship stations, KSL Radio and TV, are committed to broadcasting LDS General Conference. The game will be tape-delayed on radio beginning at 4 p.m. and on television at 9 p.m. The game will be shown live nationally on ESPN2, but that network is not available on most cable systems in Utah. Insight Cablevision, which serves Midvale, West Jordan part of Sandy and most of Utah County, has worked out a way to show the ESPN2 feed live even though the network isn't normally carried by Insight . . . The Rams are slight (31/2 point) favorites . . . The game is CSU's Homecoming and a sellout crowd of 30,000-plus fans is expected. Temporary seating has been brought in to accommodate more people for the game . . . The weather report is calling for an afternoon high of 55 degrees with probable rain showers.