PROVO — As bad as things have been on the field for BYU, they’re becoming just as bad for the Cougars off the field.
News broke Tuesday morning that BYU's leading rusher, freshman running back Ula Tolutau, was charged with possession or use of a controlled substance — marijuana— in Orem on Oct. 8, a Class B misdemeanor, according to charging documents.
The incident occurred two days after BYU’s 24-7 loss to Boise State. Tolutau played in the two games since then, against Mississippi State and East Carolina. The Cougars have now lost seven straight games this season, their longest losing streak since 1968.
BYU officials aren’t saying much about Tolutau’s status, as per school policy.
“As you are aware, we don’t comment on individual student situations,” said BYU football spokesman Brett Pyne. “We’re aware (of Tolutau’s situation) but can’t give you any comment on anything specific.”
Pyne would not say when BYU coaches learned of the situation.
Tolutau, who served an LDS Church mission to Bakersfield, California, is BYU’s leading rusher this season and has been arguably the biggest playmaker in an offense that is averaging just 12.1 points per game.
In seven games, Tolutau has rushed 72 times for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He also has fumbled three times.
Tolutau signed with Wisconsin prior to his mission. After his mission, he opened up his recruiting again and ended up signing with BYU last December.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound former East High star rushed for 2,465 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior. He helped the Leopards post a 13-1 record and reach the 4A state championship game. Tolutau was named Deseret News Mr. Football in 2013.
Over the weekend, linebacker Francis Bernard and safety Marvin Hifo also ran afoul of the law. Bernard was arrested in Vineyard on suspicion of driving under the influence, driving without a valid license, and for investigation of failing to register his vehicle or having an expired registration, according to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. Hifo was cited for having an open container of alcohol.
Coach Kalani Sitake said Monday that Bernard had already requested, and was granted, a release from the school. BYU announced on Aug. 17 that Bernard would be redshirting this season due to “personal reasons.”
Sitake said Bernard had asked for a release a couple of weeks ago and is looking at “all of his options,” adding that Hifo left the team two weeks ago and is no longer enrolled in school.
Hifo, a Mount San Jacinto College transfer, had 18 tackles this season and was a regular within the safety rotation before he suffered an injury.