Dallas • Tuesday’s Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in the Cotton Bowl Stadium marked the final act in the collegiate careers of several Utes, and for senior co-captain and defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi, the program has been part of a family legacy.
Filipo Mokofisi Sr. was an all-Mountain West linebacker for the Utes in the 1980s before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints. The younger Mokofisi has been a three-year starter on the defensive line after growing up a follower of the program.
His parents and siblings flew into Dallas on Saturday to be there for his final game in a Utah uniform.
“It’s emotional,” Mokofisi said Sunday. “It’s very cool. I grew up watching this program, grew up a huge Ute fan. A lot of family members came through here. It’s awesome that I can finish my career as a Ute. It’s a very emotional time, but at the same time you’ve just got to keep control of your emotions and play the game.”
Mokofisi was one of three senior starters on the defensive line playing his final game. The senior class included starters Lowell Lotulelei and Kyle Fitts on the defensive line along with Mokofisi, linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga, offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe, tight ends Harrison Handley and Siale Fakailoatonga and wide receiver Darren Carrington II.
Hansen sits out
Utes junior starting strong safety Chase Hansen, a Lone Peak High graduate, did not dress for the game due to an undisclosed injury. Hansen, who played in three games this season, went into this week as the team’s No. 3 tackler (51). He battled injuries since the preseason, when he missed the start of camp with an undisclosed injury.
“I’m obviously not full strength — haven’t been for a bit — and we’ve got guys that can play,” Hansen said after the game. “It seemed like the right decision to let the guys that have been working, guys that are healthy, play. They balled out, so good decision.”
Hansen said he practiced leading up to the bowl game but more as “a body” than in a sincere effort to prepare to play.
Hansen, who served a two-year LDS Church mission in the middle of his Utes career, could chose to enter the NFL Draft after this season despite having a season of eligibility remaining. Hansen, a former standout quarterback in high school, led the Utes in tackles in 2016.
Hansen said he’s still in the process of making a decision on whether to return for his final season of eligibility.
The Pac-12 Conference’s 12 teams signed 165 players (including junior college transfers) to National Letters of Intent this week during the first year of the NCAA’s early signing period for high school seniors. Colorado signed the most in the conference with 20, while the Utes signed the fewest with just six signings.
“We don’t feel behind at all because you’ve got to add into that class a handful of returned missionaries that are in those signees — not officially because they’re still on missions, but they’re going to get back in time for the season,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “So we feel that we’re just over half done. We’ve got eight or so left. When you add the missionaries to the six that we’ve signed, we’re beyond halfway. We figured if we get about halfway there, that’s the target.”