BOISE — In his final game in a BYU uniform, senior linebacker Sione Takitaki left a lasting impression.
Takitaki tallied a career-high 19 total tackles in the Cougars’ 49-18 whipping of Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Friday afternoon.
That tied him for No. 4 in school history for total tackles in a single game and the most in a BYU bowl game. The 10 assisted tackles and nine solo stops were also career bests and he also had one sack. Takitaki was one tackle shy of the Potato Bowl record for tackles.
His performance was overshadowed by his teammate, quarterback Zach Wilson, who completed 18 of 18 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns.
Said coach Kalani Sitake: "You know, I thought maybe Sione would have a good chance of getting the MVP," until he learned about Wilson's school record for single-game completions.
On the season, Takitaki also eclipsed the triple-digit mark for tackles on the season, finishing with 118. He is the 68th BYU player to post 100 or more tackles in a single year.
“I just knew this was my last go around with these guys and these coaches. They have been so good to me my whole career here. I just wanted to kind of go out there and leave it all out there on the field,” Takitaki said. “Every play in my head, I'm like, if I can get this play with back with these guys, so just getting them all.”
BYU’s defense was without stars like Corbin and Isaiah Kaufusi, who were sidelined due to injuries. But Takitaki picked up the slack quite nicely.
“It was 10-7 going into the second half, but we went to the locker room and (Sitake) emphasized, ‘Everyone do their job and we'll be fine’ and we felt that, too,” Takitaki said. “That's kind of what we cleaned up and you know, going into the third quarter, just you could see it out there and you know everyone is doing their job and making plays. Everyone fine out there."
BYU limited Western Michigan to 313 yards of total offense.
"Credit to all the guys," Takitaki said. "All 11 on that D-Line they were taking up blocks and going sideline-to-sideline. Give those guys credit, taking on two guys, and I'm just running free. So definitely, they deserve it.”
ONE MORE PASS FOR MANGUM: Senior quarterback Tanner Mangum also played in his final game for BYU. Coaches put him in the game with 7:37 remaining, prompting a loud cheer from Cougar fans in attendance.
Mangum threw one pass, a 41-yard completion to Dylan Collie, that set up BYU’s final touchdown with 4:07 left in the game.
“Yeah, it just felt right,” Sitake said. “The hard part was, I was trying to run the clock out and I was being a jerk and just saying run the ball, and then, you know, (quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick and offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes) are just like, ‘Hey, let's just let the kid throw.’ That was kind of the theme of the night. We let him throw.
"And I apologized to (Western Michigan coach) Tim Lester at the end of the game; that's not what we normally do, but he understood. It was a nice throw and he'll have that memory here on this blue turf. Yeah, I thought it was the right thing to do, even though, you know, we had some little conflict on whether to throw it or not. But if it was incomplete, then I would have been really upset.”
Mangum finished his collegiate career on the same field where it all started for him in little league as an 8-year-old.
HOW ‘BOUT THEM POTATOES?: As expected at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, part of the pregame festivities featured free French fries for fans in attendance. There was also a Battle of the Bands featuring the marching bands from BYU and Western Michigan.
And, of course, the main course for pregame meal in the press box was a baked potato.3 comments on this story
EXTRA POINTS: BYU improved to 15-20-1 all-time in bowl games … BYU’s senior class had Sitake carry the alumni flag onto the field before the game. On the field, he gave it to Akile Davis, who was playing his final game at BYU. He announced recently that he’s transferring … Collie caught six passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He nearly doubled his season yardage, having entered the game with 153 receiving yards … Tight end Matt Bushman went over 1,000 career receiving yards (1,031) with 52 against Western Michigan … Punter Danny Jones recorded a career-high 47-yard punt in the first half.