Honolulu • It wouldn’t have been a BYU football game in 2017 without the Cougars having to play short-handed.
Senior starting safety Micah Hannemann did not even make the trip to the Islands, and sophomore Austin Lee started in his place in the season finale against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors.
BYU officials declined to specify why Hannemann was not available to play. Thirty-seven players had missed significant time due to injury prior to Saturday’s game.
The Cougars were also without running back KJ Hall, who has a knee injury.
With Hall, Trey Dye, Kavika Fonua and Ula Tolutau all out due to injury or suspension, Austin Kafentzis served as Squally Canada’s primary backup and also attempted his first career pass in the second quarter.
Canada ran for 113 yards in the first half before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. He did not return. Kafentzis rushed for 35 yards in the half.
Like father, like son
BYU linebacker Va’a Niumatalolo realized a childhood dream Saturday afternoon, playing at the same stadium where his father, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, quarterbacked the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors to their first bowl game in 1989.
Va’a was one of 18 seniors honored last week in their final home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and played sparingly throughout his career as a walk-on linebacker and special teams ace.
Every once in a while, he wonders what might have been. Ken Niumatalolo interviewed for the BYU job when Bronco Mendenhall left for Virginia after the 2015 season, but decided to stay put at Navy.
“Yeah, sometimes I will think it would be nice to have Sunday dinner, with my mom cooking,” Va’a Niumataolo said. “You know, things like that. But, I don’t think about it too much.”
What Va’a thinks a lot about is coaching. Yes, he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps after he graduates in April with a degree in exercise and wellness.
“My parents did everything they possibly could to talk me out of it, and I tried talking myself out of it,” Va’a said. “I tried looking into being a doctor or whatever, but I prayed about it, and that’s what it has come down to. I want to be a coach.”
BYU linebacker Johnny Tapusoa, who is from Laie, Hawaii, wasn’t recruited at all by the Warriors, perhaps because he committed to the Cougars relatively early in the process. Tapusoa played high school football at Kahuku, a powerhouse on Oahu’s North Shore, and figured Saturday’s game was the 10th time he has played at Aloha Stadium.
Earlier this week, Tapusoa hit up his teammates for any extra tickets they could produce — players get four tickets for every game — because he had 30 to 40 friends and family members who wanted to go to the game.
“I did a lot of trades, and a lot of begging,” he said.