Coach Kelly of UCLA talks to Chris Brown of Le Malae. He wants Samoan players, NOW!
By Chris Brown
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in Westwood, Los Angeles has a new football coach. And his name is Charles ‘Chip’ Kelly. As we all know Coach Kelly is known for many innovative offensive schemes, but his most successful stint was with the Oregon Ducks when he recruited and developed a young Marcus Ardel Taulauniu Mariota, a then-relatively unknown quarterback from St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. The rest, as they say, is history. As we all know, Mariota went on to not only play in the BCS National Championship Game in 2015 but he also became the first Hawaiian-born athlete to win the Heisman Trophy. All under the guidance and tutelage of Coach Kelly. To this-day, Coach Kelly is still considered to be one of the top offensive minds in all of football, collegiate or professional. But now he is back in the Pac 12 and coaching the Bruins of UCLA and Chris Brown, the Sports Director for Le Malae got an opportunity to talk with him.
Coach Kelly is quickly adjusting to life as the new head football coach at UCLA. The school is perhaps one of the most academically advanced schools in the nation, but it is not a ‘geek’ school per se, as it leads the nation in Division 1 team national championships for a public university and it is one of the top football programs in the USA and definitely in Los Angeles where it's rivalry with USC is legendary.
In their conversation Chris explained to Coach Kelly that Samoans from both American and Western Samoa would be a great advantage to UCLA. Coach Kelly needed no ‘convincing.’ He was very emphatic that he wanted Samoan players in his program. Will Tukuafu, Simi Toeaina, Wade Keliikipi, Andrew Iupati, Keloni Kamalani, Mana Greig, Lavasier Tuinei, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Isaac Ava and Koa Ka’ai ALL had success playing for Coach Kelly in the past and he wanted even MORE Samoans to come to UCLA and have both academic and athletic success. He told Chris that if Chris could ‘produce’ 100 to 200 names of Samoan players looking to become Bruins then he would be happy to review their ‘credentials’ and investigate whether or not they could play football in his program. Coach Kelly wants Samoan players from the islands as well as those playing in the USA. He recalls how Oregon became a powerhouse under his leadership when he had Samoans at 6 key positions especially at QB. Now that QB plays on Sunday in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans. Also, a quick check of the above listed group will show many OTHER players other than Mr. Mariota that achieved professional status in the NFL.
Some of the marquee names being sought after in American Football include a young guy playing for St. John Bosco, in LA. His name is DJ Uiagalelei and he is a ‘prototype’ QB and has an arm as well as the height. At 6'5" he can observe the entire field but even at his young age last year he set a high School record with a throw of 80 yards. He would make a great match for the UCLA Bruin's high powered offense under Chip Kelly.
For any Samoan parent who has a son or athlete who would like to try out for UCLA contact us and we will give you more information. The time for awarding scholarships is upon us and UCLA is one of the best schools as well as football programs in the country. Coach Kelly is motivated to award to any player with natural ability in Samoa or NZ or Australia, but he is also looking for those who play here in the US.
Think big: 6'9", 396-pound Daniel Faalele has coaches drooling—and he's never played a down
By ANDY STAPLES
March 06, 2017
This story appears in the March 6, 2017, issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. To subscribe, click here.
As the IMG Academy football team practiced one sweltering day last August, its newest member arrived after a very long trip. With 22 seniors who would earn scholarships to FBS schools, the academy players were a hard bunch to impress. They'd heard tales of this Australian who had never played football, a high school junior who stood 6'9", wore size-18 shoes and weighed a few plates of his beloved pasta shy of 400 pounds. But they'd believe it when they saw it. "Urban legend," IMG coach Kevin Wright recalls thinking when he first heard tell of the young Aussie.
Then Daniel Faalele walked onto the field, and practice stopped.
Seeing Faalele in the flesh can yield one of two radically different impressions: When he's by himself, he looks smaller than advertised because he's so well-proportioned; when he's alongside a normal-sized human being, he looks even more massive than his dimensions would suggest. It's as if someone fed the size of the ideal NFL offensive tackle into a 3D printer and set the output to 120%. The Ascenders stared as their coach walked over to chat and it became clear that this was one mountain of a person. "I was expecting a blob," recalls offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap, who's 6'5" and 370 pounds. "He's like a brick wall."
"Keep practicing," Wright barked. When Wright didn't hear any pads popping, he looked back. "The kids didn't do anything," Wright says. "They just kept looking." So Wright called them over. Evan Neal, a 6'8", 372-pound member of the class of 2019, later told Wright that he'd never met someone who was his own age but bigger.
The college coaches who glimpsed Faalele during the most recent recruiting period reacted with similar awe. The 17-year-old Faalele (Fa-ah-lay-lay) has yet to play a down, but he already has scholarship offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida State, Hawaii, Miami, Michigan and Oregon State. This spring college assistants will descend on Bradenton, Fla., to evaluate the buffet of blue-chippers on IMG's practice field. But their eyes will stop on number 72, who plans to enroll in January 2018. "Freak," says one Power 5 head coach. When Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables visited this winter, he asked Faalele to stand next to a door for a photo. Why? Venables worried his fellow coaches wouldn't believe how big Faalele was without a basis for comparison.
More offers will come, even though Faalele is in no position to weigh them. "He doesn't know the difference between Alabama and West Alabama," IMG offensive line coach Derrick Elder says.
He's about to learn.
Imagine growing up in Atlanta or San Antonio or Fresno and, at 16, being told that you have attributes that could make you the ideal cricket bowler. Then imagine moving to England or India to train with some of the best cricket players in your age group. That, essentially, is what Faalele has done with football. In 2015 a Hawaii assistant saw Faalele lifting weights at a gym in his native Melbourne and offered a scholarship. Faalele didn't know anything about American football, but the idea of a free education and a potential professional career intrigued him. He had grown up playing rugby then shifted his focus to basketball, though he wasn't sure how far that game could take him.
Rugby and basketball had given him agile feet, and he could bend as well as someone with a much lower center of gravity. An envoy from Michigan learned this last June, during a satellite camp outside Melbourne. Coaches put 133 players through agility drills and skills testing. Faalele ran and jumped, and he attempted a three-point stance for the first time. When the three-hour camp was over, he still didn't understand the game, but he had begun to grasp the future he could make for himself if he mastered it.
So Faalele and his mother, Ruth, began researching football. Learning the game quickly enough to earn a scholarship meant moving to the U.S.—but where? Also, Ruth had to come to terms with sending the eldest of her two sons to another continent. Daniel had always been big. "When he was four months old, he was wearing size four booties," Ruth says. At 12, he was 6 feet and 220 pounds. Ruth, a 5'6" accountant, is mostly of Samoan descent. Daniel's father, Symon, who's not involved in his son's life, is a 6'2" Tongan. "It is common for Polynesians to be tall, wide or solid," Ruth says. "But it's not common to be all three in one." At 16, Daniel was larger than 99% of the men on the planet, but he was still her baby.
IMG is set up along the lines of sports institutes in Australia. When Ruth asked Wright if the academy had a bed big enough to hold her son, he brought up current NBA D-leaguer Satnam Singh. "We just had a kid from India who was 7'2"," Wright said. "I know that bed is here someplace." About half of IMG's students come from other countries, and while the academy charges $75,200 a year for a boarding football player, Daniel would receive financial aid.
Last August he said goodbye to his family and flew from Melbourne to Sydney to Los Angeles to Tampa. More than 10,000 miles later he stood on that practice field in Bradenton with his new teammates surrounding him.
Faalele understood virtually nothing about football. "He didn't even know what a yard was," Dunlap says. About a week after landing, Faalele traveled with the Ascenders to Mission Viejo, Calif., where they faced Centennial High. It was the first game Faalele had watched from start to finish. On the bus afterward, players were stunned at his questions. Why are we kicking it to them? Why, all of sudden, does the other team give us the ball back?
With a learning curve so steep—it took him about 20 minutes that first day to put on his pads—Faalele and the coaches agreed that it would be better if he only practiced through his junior season so he could learn the sport. When Faalele talks about American football, he talks about "my dream." But the dream refers more to a better life for Ruth and his brother, Taylor (who, at 11, is already 6 feet and 260 pounds).
But plenty of large people try football and fail. Off the field Faalele tries not to intimidate with his size. He speaks softly. He treats others gently. Initially, Ruth and the coaches wondered if that might affect his play. Ruth says that as a child, Daniel would walk away when playtime got rough because he worried he might hurt his friends. That wouldn't work on a football field.
At practice Faalele erased any such fears quickly. During individual drills Elder had Faalele line up as a defensive tackle. "Guys were bouncing off him left and right," Elder says. Contact, it appeared, did not bother Faalele one bit. In fact, talking about slamming into opponents produces a smile and a chuckle and adds a little volume to Faalele's voice. "I love it," he says. "It just feels natural. It feels like an achievement to overpower someone else." On the football field Faalele never has to hold back. "Now, he's able to just release all that," Ruth says. "He must have been enclosed for so long. Now he's playing a sport where he can just explode. In fact, he's required to. That's why I think he's loving it."
In one of Faalele's early practices Elder taught him to punch the pass rusher with both hands, then grab his chest. During a one-on-one drill that day, Faalele fired his hands to disrupt the lineman's charge. Then one hand disappeared inside the rusher's shoulder pads and the kid went limp. Sensing something wrong, Faalele let go and backed away. "He had grabbed [the defender's] collarbone," Elder says, shaking his head at the memory. Elder clarified: Seize the chest plate of the shoulder pads. "His hands are steel," Elder says. "If he gets them on you, it's over. Doesn't matter if he has good technique or bad technique, it's over."
Still, a key question remained: Could Faalele develop enough technique to succeed in a game? The Ascenders would soon get another hint. Midway through the season Faalele was toiling on the scout team's offensive line. The play called for him to pull and hit the first unblocked man, which happened to be defensive end Josh Kaindoh. Coaches called Kaindoh, a Florida State commit, the Human Mannequin because at 6'6" and 255 pounds he looks like something Michelangelo might have chiseled. Unbelievable as it might seem, Kaindoh didn't see Faalele coming. Suddenly, the five-star recruit became a five-star projectile. Later Wright asked Faalele if he'd intended to send Kaindoh airborne. Faalele replied that the diagram had told him to eliminate the defender, and he had. The coaches smiled.
While the coaches dream of stacks of pancake blocks when Faalele suits up this August, IMG head of sports science Matt Rhea wonders if he needs to order new machines to accurately assess Faalele. Several Ascenders can bench press and squat more than Faalele, but he hadn't engaged in a serious strength program until he arrived at IMG, so his maximum lifts will soar. Rhea is far more interested in power, a measurement of force plus velocity. From day one Faalele's power stats have exceeded those of his teammates. "I was amazed at how fast he is for how big he is," Rhea says. "His lower body power is higher than anything I've ever measured." During a workout last month Faalele hit 2,429 watts while performing a test that involves simulating a shot put motion while using a cable machine. Rhea asked around and found that NFL players usually reach around 2,200 watts when doing that drill.
On the day of the test Faalele weighed 396 pounds. Coaches and teammates assume Faalele will need to slim down, but weight is only a number for Rhea. He is concerned with Faalele's muscle mass compared to his body-fat percentage. Faalele is leaner than many of his fellow offensive linemen, and he'll likely get leaner while packing on more muscle. And since muscle weighs more than fat, it's possible his ideal playing weight might be above 400 pounds. Rhea's biggest concern is that those working with Faalele maximize his gifts—because they'll probably never see another human being like him. "The pressure is on us," Rhea says. "The support structure around him here and at his college needs to do right by him."
Wright and Elder feel that pressure too. Faalele has the temperament and the work ethic; it's up to the coaches to teach him the game. So far he's learning. In Elder's meeting room Faalele can describe everyone's duties on inside zone. During a team chalk-talk session last month, Wright made Faalele explain the Ascenders' five-man pass protection scheme to his teammates. The explanation was nearly perfect. "He came in as a ball of clay," Elder says, "and now he's starting to get sculpted into that football player."
Yet it won't matter how huge Faalele is or how much power he can generate if he can't perform as a player. By the time he makes his debut, he'll be one of the nation's most sought-after offensive line prospects. The boy the size of two men, who traveled 10,000 miles to play a strange game, believes he's ready. "I can't wait," he says. "I can't wait to hit someone else."
Juliano Falaniko is first recruit to be signed by USC straight out of American Samoa.
American Samoa is a tiny island territory belonging to the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean directly east of Samoa.
Three to four-star safety Juliano Falaniko hails from the island of American Samoa and holds the title of the top ranked overall player from the territory. Boasting offers from the likes of Arizona, Ole Miss, and Oregon, the talented athlete, who some see as a linebacker at the next level, pledged his allegiance to the Trojans.
In what is usually not seen these days in the recruiting process, Falaniko committed to USC before taking an unofficial or official visit. Despite having not yet stepped foot on campus, it was an extremely easy decision for Falaniko.
"USC was a dream school for me ever since I started playing football," said Falaniko. "I‘ve just always dreamt of going to USC. It's incredible!"
Falaniko hopes to get up to California soon to check out his future home. Telling Scout's Greg Biggins that he is "planning to get out there really soon to check the place out." Falaniko also told Scout that he has a "good relationship with Coach Nansen, who was my primary recruiter."
In viewing Falaniko's highlights, I've decided to call it right now. Falaniko could be the most underrated recruit the Trojans sign this cycle. Now, some might question a recruit who is rated in Scout's top 300 being called underrated, but the reality is most see this kid as a three-star level type guy. Falaniko is just so fast and moves so well across the field that I'm honestly wondering how he's not a consensus four-star.
The only possible reason I see for Falaniko not being ranked higher is that he's from American Samoa, which is definitely a unique situation. There are plenty of top Polynesian recruits in every cycle, but Hawaii has always been the main focus in that regard. To set the record straight and let everyone know what kind of player he is and why he shouldn't come close to being overlooked, Falaniko said the following:
"I'm that kind of player that doesn't play around when it comes to working out. I take everything seriously when it comes to football. I set good examples for my teammates and also for those who are watching!"
It truly is a great story as a young man takes a huge step in getting to live out his dream of donning a USC uniform and giving it his all every Saturday in the LA Coliseum.
"Now it really is a dream come true," said Falaniko. "Fight On!"
Bad social media behavior can ruin your athletic scholarship offer
At St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama, the high school that produced Crimson Tide quarterbacks AJ McCarron and Jake Coker, there’s a new preseason ritual for football players: the social media talk.
It’s about more than minding their manners. Coach Steve Mask warns players not to post about injuries, which can scare away recruiters. Committing on Twitter to a school is also discouraged — one recent former player tweeted commitments to four different schools without informing any coaches.
“He came across as being not reliable,” Mask said. “He gets a little joy out of the attention, but it’s not worth it.”
This season, Mask is taking his players’ online personas so seriously that he’s assigning an assistant to monitor their accounts. As college programs increasingly use Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts to evaluate a player’s character, one wrong comment can cost a scholarship offer.
That was the case recently at Penn State for offensive line coach Herb Hand, who took to Twitter recently to vent his frustration with a recruit gone bad online.
“Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence ... Actually glad I got to see the ‘real’ person before we offered him,” Hand tweeted.
At Penn State media day last week in State College, Pennsylvania, Hand said that his wife scolded him for the tone of the tweet. Cruel, maybe, but fair.
“You want to recruit guys with strong character,” he said. “Somebody messaged me, ‘Sometimes kids are worried more about being a character than having character.”’
Yes, teens do tweet the darndest things, but Hand and other coaches say it’s usually fairly easy to differentiate between a cringe-inducing post and one that raises a serious red flag on a prospect.
“There’s a difference though when you’re talking about information that may be degrading to women, referencing drug use, and anything that has to do with cyberbullying and stuff like that. There’s certain things you don’t want to be part of your program,” Hand said.
Hand, who is one of the most active and engaging college coaches you’ll find on Twitter, is not alone in cutting off a recruit because of the player’s use of social media.
“It’s happened this year and this recruiting class,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s just insane what some of them think’s OK. When I know it’s them and I read it and I see some of the things out there, if I’m on the road, I’ll call a coach — let his high school coach know we’re no longer interested. And I’ll call back to (Duke director of football relations) Kent McLeod or the people in the office and say I want him dropped off the database. No more mail. Nothing.”
NCAA rules regarding contact between recruits and football coaches have become more restrictive in recent years. Coaches can’t text recruits and opportunities to meet face-to-face have decreased. As social media has become more ubiquitous, it has helped coaches fill the information gap in recruiting.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said social media is now part of his standard checklist for recruits.
“He’s got to have a GPA that I can relate to, an ACT or SAT score or a pre-ACT score, and the third box is for social media,” Bielema.
“I distinctly remember a player last year who signed, was a big-time kid, had an interest in us, and his Twitter handle was something that I can’t repeat in here. I just kind of said, what are we doing here? This is about as obvious as it gets about what kind of thing we’re dealing with here, so we backed out altogether.”
Hand said he tries to educate high school coaches who might be behind the curve in online communication. And he often tries to educate players he’s recruiting about how to avoid social media missteps.
“If you talk to a guy and he doesn’t adjust things, that’s another red flag for you,” he said. “If they’re not going to take coaching on this, what are they going to do on third-and-short when you need them to make a block and they kind of do their own deal?”
Bruce Rollinson, who is starting his 26th season as coach of southern California powerhouse Mater Dei High School, said he added the social media talk to his routine about three years ago, borrowing some of the dos and don’ts USC gives its athletes.
“Don’t harass anybody,” Rollinson said, focusing mostly on the don’ts. “Don’t bring up race, religion, sexual orientation and physical conditions.”
South Carolina freshman defensive back Chris Lammons said he got the message in high school and cleaned up his Twitter act, despite what his friends were doing.
“In the transition from being a little kid to a man, that’s the thing you have to do, because when you’re growing up, you probably want to get a big time job somewhere and they look back at your Twitter account and they see the things you’re putting out,” Lammons said.
AP sports writers Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Arkansas; Joedy McCreary in Durham, North Carolina; and Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
The path to Alabama went through Vince Passas, QB coach at St. Louis High School
2018 College Football Championship a classic as Alabama wins in overtime with freshman Tua Tagovailoa's heroics.
By CHRIS JOHNSON January 09, 2018 Sports Illustrated
The biggest fear about this All-SEC College Football Playoff national championship game is that a meeting between two defensive juggernauts with young quarterbacks, No. 3 seed Georgia and No. 4 seed Alabama, would result in a dull, low-scoring slog. The first half may have lacked intrigue, but the Crimson Tide, boosted by a quarterback change at halftime, scored 20 points over the final two quarters to force overtime and pulled out a 26-23 win to claim their fifth title in nine years—as well as the sixth of head coach Nick Saban’s career.
After going scoreless in the first half, Alabama pulled starting sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a true freshman and carried a 25-2 record into Monday, in favor of highly regarded true freshman Tua Tagovailoa. A seemingly catastrophic opening play in the first overtime period in which Tagovailoa held the ball too long and took a 16-yard loss was followed by a pinpoint throw to fellow true freshman Devonta Smith for a 41-yard walk-off touchdown.
Long a subject of fascination among Alabama supporters who believed the dual-threat playmaker could elevate the Crimson Tide’s passing game, Tagovailoa made his biggest impact of the season on the biggest possible stage. The Crimson Tide’s offense repeatedly went nowhere against Georgia early on, and Tagovailoa ignited it with a remarkable blend of poise and execution, completing 14 of his 24 passing attempts for 166 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. In the process, he validated the potential suggested by his lofty recruiting pedigree and attained legendary status for a blueblood while a extending a dynasty that has defined this decade of college football.
A missed 40-yard field goal preceded by a false start penalty on Alabama’s first possession set the tone for a frustrating half. Outside of a 31-yard scramble from Hurts, the Crimson Tide managed only 42 yards on 15 carries, good for 2.8 yards per carry. Entering Monday night, Alabama had led led the Football Bowl Subdivision at 5.8 yards per carry.Few expected these two teams would wage a fast-paced shootout resembling the Rose Bowl, but the first two quarters amounted to the stylistic opposite of the Bulldogs’ thrilling double overtime victory over the Sooners that produced 102 points and 1,058 total yards. Alabama and Georgia combined for only 13 points and one touchdown, and the Crimson Tide failed to crack the 100-yard mark.
Hurts couldn’t offset the Crimson Tide’s inability to get going on the ground by consistently moving the ball through the air. He completed only three of his eight passing attempts for 21 yards. Alabama headed into the locker room with zero points, only one third-down conversion on six attempts and 94 yards on 3.91 yards per play, well below their season average heading into the title game of 6.70 YPP. The Crimson Tide replaced Hurts with Tagovailoa to open the third quarter.
Whereas Hurts couldn’t get into a rhythm against Georgia’s stingy defense before the break, Bulldogs true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm hit on multiple big throws after Alabama defensive back Tony Brown wrestled away his third passing attempt of the game from wide receiver Javon Wims, part of a sequence of seven consecutive passing plays to open the game for Georgia.
A pair of third-down completions from Fromm to Wims and sophomore wide receiver Riley Ridley, the younger brother of Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, helped move the Bulldogs into field-goal range, and place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected from 27 yards to put them up 6-0. And a 16-yard toss to junior wide receiver Terry Godwin late in the half set up a first and goal culminating in a one-yard touchdown from sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman off a direct snap.
Tagovailoa provided an infusion of offensive dynamism the Crimson Tide sorely needed. After a three and out on his first series, Tagovailoa showed flashes of why he was rated the top dual-threat QB in his class. After shrugging off multiple would-be tacklers and winding scrambling for a first down on a third and 7, Tagovailoa hit senior wide receiver Robert Foster on a 15-yard pass, then connected with true freshman wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on three straight throws, the last of which was a dart to the back of the end zone to cut Georgia’s lead to 13-7.
Georgia wasted little time in delivering a response. On a third and 11, Hardman streaked past Brown down the right sideline, and Fromm hit him in stride for an 80-yard touchdown. It was a massive throw from a quarterback who’s continued to defy expectations since taking hold of the starting job early in the season after sophomore Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury, and held onto it even after Eason recovered before leading the Bulldogs to the brink of their first national championship in nearly four decades.
Alabama capitalized on an interception on the Bulldogs’ subsequent series from sophomore defensive lineman Raekwon Davis to knock in a 43-yard field goal, and a pair of long runs from true freshman tailback Najee Harris put the Crimson Tide in position to tack on three more points with a 30-yarder that narrowed Georgia’s lead to 20-13 with 9:24 left in regulation. The Crimson Tide the game on their next series.
Alabama junior running back Damien Harris was stuffed for a one-yard loss on a third and 3 at Georgia’s six yard line, and the Crimson Tide opted to go for it on fourth down. After a timeout, Tagovailoa dropped back, bought time while scrambling to his left, and rifled a seven-yard touchdown pass to junior Calvin Ridley, a pivotal grab in crunch time from from a first-round NFL draft prospect who’d spent most of the evening being outshined by his younger brother wearing a different uniform.
The Crimson Tide followed up by forcing a three and out, but they couldn’t close out the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter: Place kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 40-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. After Georgia counterpart Blankenship drilled a 51-yarder on its first possession, Alabama didn’t let the Bulldogs have the ball back again. Tagovailoa took that seemingly costly sack on first down, only to connected with Smith for the 41-yard winner one play later.
Alabama wins the contest for the Number one QB from Hawaii. "Tuaman" Tagoailoa is going to roll Crimson Tide
By Hawaii Prep World
The highest-rated quarterback ever to come out of Hawaii is headed to the top collegiate program in the country.
Saint Louis junior Tua Tagovailoa made it official on Monday, wrapping up his recruiting process early by committing to Alabama in a decision made public on the KHON2 6 p.m. newscast.
Tagovailoa, who held 19 scholarship offers, had whittled it down to a final six of Alabama, Hawaii, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, USC, and UCLA.
The Crimson Tide, who have won three of the last five and four of the last seven national titles, offered Tagovailoa in early March. Up to that point, Tagovailoa said he was only focused on playing on the West Coast. Last month, he visited SEC country and took in Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss. By the time he was ready to leave the Alabama campus, his decision had been made.
“It was a hard decision but I chose Alabama because I went there and made so many friends so fast and it was kind of like a connection with the guys who would take me to church with them and take me to bible studies,” Tagovailoa told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s all in my line of how my parents want me to go about doing things.”
Tagovailoa will be the first player from Hawaii to play for Alabama since place-kicker Peter Kim, a Kaiser graduate, lettered from 1980 to ’82.
Currently 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Tagovailoa will enter his senior season at Saint Louis with 5,503 passing yards and 57 touchdowns and 1,034 rushing yards with 19 more TDs on the ground. He needs 2,499 yards to eclipse the state’s career passing mark held by another Saint Louis great,Timmy Chang.
Tagovailoa is the highest-rated high school senior for the class of 2017 from Hawaii and also the first of the state’s top recruits to make his decision.
“I wanted to keep a relationship with the coaches who had recruited me … and I felt the need that if I were to make a commitment today, it would make it easier for their recruiting as well,” Tagovailoa said. “You don’t want to ruin relationships by come Signing Day signing with another school and they don’t sign a quarterback for their class and out of respect I wanted to (make my decision) earlier.”
Tagovailoa says he plans to graduate in December so he can enroll at Alabama in January.
Polynesian award watch list revealed
Headlining this year's list are Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley, Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, Oregon State lineman Isaac Seumalo, BYU defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner and USC's Su'a Cravens and JuJu Smith.
The award is presented annually to the most outstanding college football player of Polynesian ancestry. Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota was the award's inaugural recipient in 2014.
The full breakdown of players on the watch list by conference is as follows: Pac-12 (17), Mountain West (7), Independents (6), Big 12 (3), Sun Belt (2) and Big Ten (1).
Here's the complete watch list (36 nominees):
2014's Heisman trophy winner is a Samoan. Marcus Mariota acknowledges his Samoan roots during his speech and touches hearts
by Albert Ainuu
Its been a very tumultuous year for Samoan sporting fans. The heavyweight boxer Alex "Lionheart" Leapai, was the first Samoan since David Tua to contest for the World heavyweight title. He lost in April by knockout to Wladimir Klitcshko. The Samoan Sevens team lost in the USA Sevens in Las Vegas. The Samoan Rugby League team Toa Samoa made it to the 4 Nations world title tournament and they were beaten by New Zealand, England and Australia in tough, close matches which were heart breakers. And then the Manu Samoa, the Rugby team that has made a name for Samoa in the world of Rugby Union throughout the world went through a devastating controversy with its own Rugby Union and the Prime Minister of the nation of Samoa which led to a threat to boycott their test match against England. This led to even more recriminating words from the PM and a heartbreaking loss to England. These were tough times for Samoan fans world wide. But then something happened in the sporting world that made these disappointing events fade into the background.
The United States of America is obsessed with its Football. The rest of the world calls it gridiron. In the college or university realm football is king. No sport has such fanatical fan support. This is where the NFL looks for its next draftees. This is the highest level of athletic competition in an amateur rank anywhere other than the Olympics. During the months of September to December the world according the Americans stands still while football takes over the entire nation. College football ranks second only to the NFL in the amount of fans and revenue generated. It is the purest form of competition played by athletes for nothing more than the glory. That is why it is held with such high esteem.
Each year the College ranks and the media choose a player to accept the Heisman trophy. This athlete is determined by a number of different criteria, but most important is his performance on the field. Usually this trophy goes to a running back or quarterback because they are the most influential in a team's success. What voters look at is the players record and how he contributes to the team's winning record. Their statistics usually are at the top of their position in the entire nation. They also belong to one of the top teams in the College rankings.
This year was special because a Samoan was in the running for the award. Marcus Mariota of Oregon had led his team to a Pac 12 Championship. He started for 3 years as the Oregon Ducks quarterback and his leadership had resulted in 3 years of Oregon being in the top 10 of College Football. Many weeks they were ranked either No. 1 or 2 in the nation and that was mostly as a direct result of Marcus Mariota's amazing talent to play the most prestigious and crucial position in Football. The Quarterback.
No other position carries the weight of how successful a team is like the quarterback position. This position is not for the faint hearted. It has evolved in recent years to more than just passing the ball to wideouts or handing off to running backs who take the ball into the end zone where scores are made. In recent years quarterbacks have been relied on to pass, hand off and run. Thats what makes Marcus such a unique athlete.
At 6' 4" Marcus is the prototypical size for a drop back passer if that were all he wanted to do. But Oregon selected him specifically because he had a very unique skill set that fit their style of fast tempo offense. He can make all the throws with ease and accuracy. He does long bombs, short outs, screen passes and the broken play where he escapes tacklers and then throws a dart on the run to an open receiver. This year he passed for 38 Touchdowns against just 2 interceptions. That is ridiculous.
But he can do more. He can also run a 4.4 40 without breaking a sweat. He can dodge tacklers at full speed. As a result he scored 13 touchdowns running and one receiving. This is what makes him even more dangerous. He can make plays and he performs well in dire circumstances. Thats why he is such an amazing player. He has mastered this position at such a young age. He always seems in control of the situation and his play this year has been exceptional. The mental preparation and ability to process information under extreme duress and at crucial times in a game are what sets the great ones apart. Marcus has that ability.
Tonight he was honored in New York City infront of the best Football players to ever play this game, the former Heisman trophy winners, and the entire nation because the event was broadcast live on ESPN. The legend of Football were gathered there tonight. Tony Dorsett, Tim Tebow, Jim Brown all stood proud and tall behind Marcus as he accepted the award. They looked at him with respect as he gave a speech which was moving as it was sincere. The best in the game now accepted a new member into their exclusive club. And this was the first Samoan to ever make that walk from amateur to legend.
Marcus paid respect to his coaches, his teammates, his culture and his family. The entire room and the nation watched as a young man paid tribute to his parents with tears and adulation for the role they played in his success. It was considered by the experts as one of the most inspiring speeches they have ever heard on that stage. He did all Polynesians proud with his acknowledgement of his roots and his encouragement to all Poly athletes to rise up and compete for this same trophy in the future. His closing spoke volumes with only three simple words spoken in Samoan. "Faafetai tele lava." He revealed his pride for his Samoan roots.
Oregon is currently awaiting its next game as one of the final four teams vying for the College Football Championship in the first ever College Football Playoff. Marcus has taken Oregon into the final four with a convincing win, a 51-13 demolition of Arizona avenging the only blemish on their record. This is the fairytale ending we all would like to see for such a unique athlete. He has already won the Heisman trophy. All that awaits now is the College Football Championship.
Ia tafe toto ou ala Marcus.
Samoan Coaches in greater demand as the Eastern USA Colleges try to access Samoan players
By Albert Ainuu
The conclusion of the College Football season and regular NFL season has brought about a major shift in the coaching landscape in a number of College Football’s storied programs including USC and UCLA.
The Pac 12 conference went through some changes that were expected in coaching after the end of the 2015 season but what became apparent was that more Samoan and Polynesian Assistant Coaches are being added. The number of Samoan coaches added to coaching staffs recently seems to indicate that schools are putting a premium on the ability of a coaching staff to recruit the Samoan/Polynesian football player. In terms of programs that are intent on winning now or within a short time the results of the last season seem to amplify the mantra “if you want to win you need Poly players”
Not that this was anything new, for a long time the schools on the West coast like USC, UCLA and Arizona monopolized the recruitment of Polynesian players. The schools from back east had no experience with Polynesian athletes. But recently with players such as Manti Te’o who almost single handedly led Notre Dame to a national championship and Marcus Mariota who won the Heisman, they awoke to the reality that Samoans and Polynesians were not a flash in the pan. They were the real deal and they can lead a college team to amazing results.
So now the game is being decided in the recruiting rooms as the coaches decide who they will recruit to play for them. They have been going to American Samoa now for 5 or more years. This little rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has been named Football island among college football experts. This is where colleges have been able to turn around their programs within a relatively short time when they invest in these giants from the South Pacific. There is also a move to start teaching Samoans in Independent Samoa the game and bring them to play in Colleges or High Schools.
This is perhaps the start of a region wide development of Football in nations usually reserved to the game of Rugby but with the successful transition by Jared Hayne, the famous Rugby League star who got retained by the San Francisco 49ers after his dynamic style of running got the NFL excited. The reality is Football Island is about to become Football Region if the Samoans in independent Samoa get recruited and then athletes from Tonga and Fiji join that diaspora to the USA. This is an exciting time for Samoa and its neighbors. But the first step in this transformation is succeeding in College Football.
And thus the new breed of coaches named thus far in the staffs of such high profile Programs as BYU, USC and UCLA.
There was an addition to the number of Poly coaches in Division 1 Football with the hiring of Kalani Siitake by BYU after Coach Bronco Mendenhall left to coach Virginia. Siitake who is Tongan now joins Ken Niumatalolo who coaches Navy (and holds the record for wins at Navy) as the only 2 Polynesian Coaches in Division 1 Football. The primary reason the choice for Siitake was made was because BYU football wanted to lure more Polynesian players to their team.
This was crucial when the ex BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall left and took Allen Anae as offensive Coordinator and Mark Atuaia as Running Backs Coach with him to Virginia. This development means there will be more Polynesians chosing Virginia if they are recruited.
Meanwhile in the west high profile coaches such as UCLA’s Jim Mora also hired more Samoans. Jim promoted Kennedy Polamalu to become the Offensive Coordinator for the Bruins. Also added to his staff was Marcus Tuiasosopo who will be the new Quarterback Coach for UCLA. Marcus Tuiasosopo had coached quarterbacks for both Washington University and recently at USC. Keep your eye on him.
The Washington State Cougars had a turn around season in 2015 thanks to a number of Polynesian players who were recruited by WSU Defensive Line Coach Joe Salave’a. He was given an extension of 3 years to coach in Washington as a pre-emptive move to discourage potential suitors such as Rich Rodriguez of Arizona from taking him away. Joe Salave’a is acknowledged as one of the best recruiters of Polynesian talent in College Football.
There is one more destination that our coaches have yet to arrive at and that is coach of a professional Football team. Interestingly enough the name Ken Niumatalolo was brought up by Sports commentators when discussing the now open New York Giants coaching position. This is definitely a step in the right direction and who knows, we may see this happen in a few more years.
Three-star American Samoa OL eyes WSU visit
Cougfan.com Managing Editor
THE TOP RATED recruit coming out of American Samoa this year is OL Frederick Mauigoa. The three-star, 6-4, 295-pounder out of Tafuna High in Pago Pago has a half dozen offers including rides from Washington State, Oregon State and BYU. He knows what he wants in a school. And he has one official visit in mind for this fall.
Things may change between now and the end of January but as of now, you have to think other schools will try hard to bring him in for a free weekend, but Mauigoa sees himself taking a fall visit only to WSU.
"The only school I’m thinking for an official visit is Washington State. I already had unofficial visits with UNLV, Oregon State (and BYU) so I’m just looking forward to a visit to Washington State," said Mauigoa.
Although he wasn't able to get out to the Palouse this summer, Mauigoa and WSU area recruiter Joe Salave'a have stayed in close contact.
"I like Washington State," said Mauigoa. "The coach that has been recruiting from Samoa has been doing it a long time. I’m thankful that he still remembers the kids from Samoa during the recruiting process. I also like Washington State because there are a lot of other Samoans there. I want to be where I’m comfortable, where I can speak my language and be around other Polynesian kids.
"Joe Salave’a always lets me know what’s been going on with the team, how the spring went and he is about motivating me to work hard. He’s ready for me to hopefully become a Coug and I’m keeping them in mind."
He doesn't plan on taking all five of his official visits, but Mauigoa doesn't plan on making an early pledge either.
"I see myself committing late, like Signing Day-late," said Mauigoa. "I’ll talk it over with my parents and think carefully about it so I don’t (have any) regrets and will pick the right school that I can fit best in."
Oregon State and BYU figure to be among WSU's chief competition for Mauigoa.
"Both those schools have Polynesian kids and they both care about having a good football team and they also support the academic side of things," said Mauigoa. "I’m looking for a school where the players have that bond, where they make it a family -- being with other players and seeing them as my brothers. Being with other Polynesians would be the best way because we came from the same island, we know what we’ve been through from Samoa. And I’d like to help other kids from Samoa get recruited."
It's not only the distance that makes getting recruited out of American Samoa a challenge. The equipment and facilities are like night and day in comparing American Samoa and stateside.
"I really want other coaches to see other Samoan players. It’s tough because we don’t really have the right equipment to play with (or to work out on our own with) but we try to do our best. I want (other coaches) to know how tough it is for a Samoan athlete coming out of Samoa and making it big here," said Mauigoa.
Mauigoa has been able to travel and compete in various camps and combines on the mainland, as well as make the aforementioned unofficials, because of the Pasefika International Sports Alliance run by Keike Misipeka.
"Keike has given me a lot of opportunities through the foundation and I’m really grateful for that," said Mauigoa. "I’ve gotten to experience a lot more than I can back in Samoa. Getting off ‘The Rock’ and seeing how other athletes perform has helped me. It’s different football from The Rock to here in the mainland. And I’m thankful to my teachers for helping me with my education."
"He has a good punch, he’s strong and has a great work ethic," said Misipeka, who said all schools like him at offensive guard. "He has good leadership skills and he’s a smart kid -- he’s a 4.0 student."
Mauigoa "showed he belonged" at The Opening and made the "Final 5" on Day 1 of the linemen competition, Scout.com's Greg Biggins reported. "Mauigoa moves extremely well, especially laterally, which is what you want to see from an interior lineman. He clocked a 4.68 shuttle and jumped 31" in the vertical during the NIKE testing, which were the top marks for all offensive lineman," said Biggins.
College Players prepare for the NFL draft and there are 2 Samoans who may go in the First Round
By Albert Ainuu
The 2015 NFL Draft is less than 2 weeks away. This year seems to be shaping up to be a major year for Samoan draftees. The main attraction of course is Marcus Mariota, the Heisman Trophy winner who is projected to go Number 2 in the draft behind the Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston. If the projections hold true then Marcus will either e playing in Tennessee which has the Number 2 pick or may be traded to another team, of which there are a number of potential suitors. That is going to be the most interesting pick of this draft. Who will get Mariota?
There are a number of teams vying for the chance to get the Samoan Quarterback. These teams begin with the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Diego Chargers, and the St. Louis Rams. Philadelphia seems to be the best fit for him because the Eagles Coach is Chip Kelly, who was Marcus Mariota's coach in College at Oregon when Marcus first came to Oregon. He is familiar with Marcus and he is employing the same system he used at Oregon so Marcus would be familiar with the Philadelphia playbook. However, the chances of Philadelphia getting Mariota are not as good as the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego has been rumored to be negotiating with Tennessee to trade their proven starter Phillip Rivers who is about to be due a significant pay raise after this next season. The opportunity to get Marcus Mariota coupled with the expense of keeping Phillip Rivers and the potential Chargers move to Los Angeles makes the option of moving up in the draft to get their next great San Diego QB seems very attractive. But there are many who are not sure Marcus is ready to step in and lead as a rookie. But the rumors are flying fast and furious and they have worked Marcus out two times already so they are definitely interested.
The St. Louis Rams may have an interest in Marcus but they may not have adequate bargaining chips to persuade Tennessee to trade their number 2 pick to them. But Marcus is but one of two potential 1st Round Samoan draft picks. The other Samoan making alot of noise in this year's NFL draft is Danny Shelton of Washington.
Danny Shelton is a behemoth playing at 339 lbs he is a wrecking ball Defensive Lineman who can play Nose Tackle and Defensive Tackle depending on the Defensive scheme (3-4 or 4-3). He has been compared to Vince Wolfolk of the Patriots because he not only occupies multiple blockers, takes up alot of space but he's quick enough to get sacks. He had 9 this past season for Washington University including one of Marcus Mariota. Others compare him to fellow Polynesian, Haloti Ngata of the Detroit Lions.
Danny Shellton was featured on the NFL Channel where he was interviewed and displayed his pride for his culture by wearing an ie lavalava not only during hid pro Day workout, but on the studio floor when Willie McGinest interviewed him and particpated when they did the Faaumu. Obviously Willie knows Samoans because he was a part of the USC Trojans back when Junior Seau and other great Samoan Trojans played there.
Danny is projected to go anywhere from number 9 to the mid teens. The teams he may end up playing for are Detroit, Chicago or the Cleveland Browns. What is impressive about Danny is he has nearly completed his degree in Anthropology at Washington. By the time he starts playing pro ball he should have his degree. He has been a a survivor and one who has overcome so much including the shooting of his brother. These were difficult times for the young Samoan but he was able to put all of this behind him by the time he became a senior and the maturity showed as he surged ahead of the DT field in the draft to secure a place as one of the top draft picks in this year's NFL draft.
There may be other Polynesians drafted this year but none rated as high as the 1st round. This year will be special because we have two potential 1st rounders in the same year. Good Luck to both Marcus Mariota and Danny Shelton.
USC'S 18-YEAR OLD LEADER
True freshman wide receiver Juju Smith is showing his leadership skills this offseason.
Even as a true freshman, Juju Smith isn’t taking a backseat to anyone. After a season where he caught 54 passes for 724 yards and 5 touchdowns, Smith is taking it upon himself to organize offseason workouts. The true freshman and a group of teammates that included Cody Kessler, Max Browne and Ricky Town have been hitting the practice field to get a little throwing in.
“It was awesome,” Smith said. “Just coming out here with the boys, bringing out the boys out here early, I scheduled this myself for the quarterbacks and receivers to come out here and get that work in.”
Smith just turned 18 in November, which means he played a majority of his freshman season as a 17-year old. Youth is no stranger to this USC team though as a new set of early enrollee freshmen started class this past week. Amongst those freshmen was quarterback Ricky Town who took part in his first team activities this week.
“He’s been great,” Smith said about the freshman quarterback. “As a young freshman and also a senior too kind of, he’s doing great. He’s studying the plays a lot. Signals, concepts, just watching film constantly. I think he’s going to be great.”
With the departure of Nelson Agholor, it looked as if Smith would be battling withGeorge Farmer for the top spot on the depth chart at the wide receiver position. However, everything changed when Farmer announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft last week.
“I wasn’t happy with his decision on leaving, but I know what he did was best for him and his family,” Smith said. “I’m proud of what he did and support him 100 percent.”
The Trojans now have to move on after the loss of Farmer and they’ll get a little help doing so when two junior college wide receivers join the roster for the 2015 season.Isaac Whitney is already on campus and enrolled in class while De’Quan Hampton will arrive at USC this summer.
“It was very unexpected when George left,” Smith said. “I thought about who I had and who had to step up. We have two JC receivers coming in next year and I feel like they’re going to be ready. Isaac and De’Quan. De’Quan comes in summer and Isaac’s here now and very into practice. You also have Darreus (Rogers), Aaron (Minor), all of the other walk-ons, Ajene (Harris) and I think we’ll be fine.”
There’s always talk surrounding JuJu Smith about how he would be a great two way player, kind of like Adoree Jackson. Smith hasn’t played any snaps on defense yet, and that could change down the road, but for now he’s focused on offense.
“I don’t know,” Smith said when asked if he wanted to play both ways. “We’ll see. I’m willing to work for it, but my main priority is offense right now. I feel like I’m the number one receiver and I feel like I got to keep it that way. These boys that are coming in have to compete and my spot is up for grabs too. Although I’m a vet, I feel like I have to work as hard to keep my spot.”
Everyone can always be working on something and although it may be hard to see a weakness in Smith’s game, he still thinks there is plenty to work on.
“As of right now, I’m working on running my routes under control,” Smith said. “Not having to force anything and then also with catching the ball, getting my chemistry with Cody on point and also Ricky. I’m trying to get most guys out here and get our chemistry right. Come spring, we’ll be ready.”
Marcus Mariota picked up his own fumble and scored a TD in defeating UCLA.
By Nick Bromberg
It wasn't the most glamorous of plays, but thanks to a lot of open space, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota deftly picked up his own fumble and scored a touchdown in the third quarter against UCLA.
Mariota was running a read option play and saw that UCLA had committed to the running back so he kept the ball himself and ran to the left. As he went to tuck the ball and run, he mishandled the ball and fumbled.
However, since UCLA had committed so significantly to the running back, Mariota had plenty of time to pick the ball up and stroll into the end zone.
The touchdown gave Oregon a 28-10 lead and the Ducks won 42-30. Mariota's scoop and score was his second rushing TD of the day and his fourth total touchdown of the game. Thanks to the suspension of Todd Gurley and losses by other teams, the big win against UCLA can help put Mariota near the top of the Heisman race.
Mariota keeps adding to his highlight reel. Lifts Oregon to another win
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- One week after a season-defining win over then-No. 7 Michigan State, No. 2 Oregon spent the first quarter Saturday trying regain its footing against upset-minded Wyoming.
Quarterback Marcus Mariotadidn't let that happen, leading the Ducks on six consecutive scoring drives to lift Oregon to a 48-14 win over the Cowboys.
Mariota became the fourth Oregon quarterback to pass for more than 7,000 yards. The Ducks junior completed 19 of 23 passes with two touchdowns. Mariota also rushed five times for 71 yards, including touchdown runs of 15 and 19 yards.
Mariota has thrown a school-record 71 touchdowns, with at least one TD thrown in all 29 games he's appeared in.
Oregon (3-0) had a rare scoreless first quarter, and found itself trailing 7-0 heading into the second quarter.
''We were a little sluggish at the beginning in every phase. Whether it's the early game or whatever, we're in the business of fighting human nature. It's impossible to ignore to some degree,'' Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. ''Our guys did a decent job of shaking the hangover.''
Mariota paced Oregon by leading the Ducks on four second-quarter scoring drives. Mariota ran for two scores and threw 16-yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen that gave Oregon a 27-7 halftime lead.
''I don't know if anyone in this room has a vote for the Heisman Trophy, but I encourage you to take a look at your ballot there for (this) quarterback. He's a tremendous player and I thought he played extremely well,'' Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said.
Highlighting Mariota's performance was a second-quarter touchdown where the Honolulu junior gave Ducks fans a thrill and scare at the same time.
Scrambling to avoid a pass rush, Mariota ran 19 yards for a touchdown, finishing the play by diving head first over Wyoming tacklers to reach the pylon.
Mariota bounced off the ground and ran to the sideline.
Oregon linebacker Torrodney Prevot (86) celebrates after sacking Wyoming quarterback Colby Kirkegaar …
''I hope he never does that ever again. Pretty sure all our coaches don't want to see him do that again,'' said Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe, blocking for Mariota on the play. ''I'd rather see him run out of bounds at the 2. That being said, it was an awesome play.''
Helfrich said that play was Mariota being Mariota.
''He can't sit there and think, don't do this, don't do that. The way he plays, that's one of his biggest strengths,'' Helfrich said.
Helfrich wasn't entirely thrilled with seeing his Heisman Trophy hopeful going airborne, however.
''He told me on the sideline to never do that again. I'll take that as a warning,'' Mariota said.
Oregon wide receiver Johnathan Loyd (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the third quart …
Byron Marshall ran six times for 80 yards and a touchdown to lead Oregon's running game. Freshman Royce Freeman had a 12-yard touchdown run. The Ducks had 556 yards, including 263 on the ground.
Oregon safety Erick Dargan had two interceptions, both in the first half.
Wyoming quarterback Colby Kirkegaard completed 19 of 33 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Cowboys running back Shaun Wick ran 16 times for 122 yards.
Wyoming, a 43-point underdog to Oregon, had some moments, but couldn't stop the Ducks offense after the first quarter.
The Cowboys (2-1) had 439 yards, including 282 during the first half. But Wyoming allowed Oregon to score on six consecutive possessions, three set up by Cowboy turnovers.
Oregon running back Royce Freeman (21) scores a touchdown during the third quarter of an NCAA colleg …
The loss ended a personal 26-game winning streak for Bohl, the first-year Cowboys coach who won three consecutive FCS national titles at North Dakota State (2011-13).
''We knew it was going to be an uphill challenge and we were going to have to play error free. We certainly didn't do that,'' Bohl said. ''I'm not saying everything was beautiful out there, but by and large, I felt like our guys stayed in it, kept on trucking, kept on believing.''
Wyoming stunned Oregon early, stopping the Ducks' first drive on fourth down at the Cowboys 2. Wyoming rewarded its defense by driving 98 yards for the game's first score, an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kirkegaard to Tanner Gentry.
Oregon right tackle Jake Fisher, a three-year starter, left the game during the Ducks' opening drive with a leg injury.
The Ducks ended Wyoming's upset hopes with a 27-point second quarter.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) hits the turf after he was flipped in the air scoring a touchd …
''It's good to go through a little adversity. You have to fight through some things. It wasn't a factor that we weren't moving the ball. For us, it's punching it in and finishing,'' Mariota said.
Oregon tied the game at 7-7 just five seconds into the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown scramble by Mariota. The Ducks took a 13-7 lead four minutes later when Marshall romped 30 yards for a score.
Two interceptions by Dargan set up Oregon's final two scores of the second quarter.
Allen caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Mariota with 1:34 remaining in the second quarter, giving Oregon a 27-7 lead that it took into halftime.
The Ducks continued their offensive roll into the third quarter, when Oregon scored on its first two possessions to take a 41-7 lead. Mariota left the game after throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Loyd with 9:59 remaining in the third.
Marcus Mariota wins 3 awards at the College Football Awards
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Marcus Mariota put up nearly flawless numbers this season in leading Oregon to a spot in the first College Football Playoff.
At the College Football Awards Show on Thursday night, he went a perfect 3 for 3.
Mariota opened the night by winning the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, and closed it by claiming the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year. In a separate announcement he also was selected the Walter Camp National Player of the Year.
"It's surreal. It's surreal. It really all is," Mariota said. "Growing up as a kid you always kind of see these award shows. To say that I'm a part of really this fraternity ... it's really just a blessing."
Mariota said this week he has never been completely comfortable with the spotlight brought on by winning awards. Thursday there was no way he could escape it.
Already considered the front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, he now hopes to become the first player to win the Maxwell Award and Heisman in the same season since Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in 2010.
FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2014, file photo, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passes during the first …
Some recent history is on Mariota's side. Four straight winners of the Davey O'Brien award have gone on to win the Heisman.
"That's the first time I've heard of (that trend)," he said. "I don't know how to explain it. It's pretty cool and we'll see what happens."
Both of the other Heisman finalists who will join Mariota in New York also left with hardware Thursday night.
Amari Cooper became the first Alabama player to win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's outstanding receiver. Melvin Gordon became the third Wisconsin player to win the Doak Walker Award given to the top running back in the country.
Gordon said Wednesday he will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He said he thinks he already has accomplished what he set out to do this year.
FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2014, file photo, Oregon's Marcus Mariota passes down field against Mich …
"I think I did," Gordon said. "Part of the reason I came back was to prove I was a better player. I felt I did that. There were some things I didn't achieve. But I put us in a position for those goals. But I did come back to be a better player and show I was one of the best running backs in the nation."
Other award winners Thursday were: Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright (Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year), Maryland's Brad Craddock (Lou Groza Award for nation's outstanding kicker), Utah's Tom Hackett (Ray Guy Award for punter of the year), Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff (Outland Trophy for outstanding interior lineman), and Louisville's Gerod Holliman (Jim Thorpe Award for nation's best defensive back).
Three other awards were announced prior to the live ceremony. The Rimington Trophy for the nation's outstanding center went to Auburn's Reese Dismukes. Florida State's Nick O'Leary was honored with the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end, and Duke's David Helton won the William V. Campbell Trophy for academic success, football performance and community service.
TCU coach Gary Patterson was selected the Home Depot Coach of the Year after guiding the Horned Frogs from a 4-8 mark in 2013 to 11-1 this season, falling just short of a spot in the playoff.
"Being outside of the College Football Playoff, I knew my players were disappointed. But we have to be the leaders not only in football, but in America," Patterson said. "(The Peach Bowl matchup with Ole Miss) is an opportunity one more time to show what we're made of."
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower
Navy coach Niumatalolo can set record vs Army