Fa’amasino, Pili look to become Alaska’s next college bowl hero

December 25, 2017

Eathyn Manumaleuna

Anchorage’s Eathyn Manumaleuna [55] blocks field goal to save BYU at 2007 Las Vegas Bowl.

When it comes to college football bowl games, Alaska has carved out its own place in the history book thanks to defining moments at crunch time by a handful of players from Anchorage.

The 1993 Rose Bowl saw former West High star David Kilpatrick of Washington block a punt in the final minute of the fourth quarter against Michigan to pump life back into the Huskies before falling 38-31.

At the 2005 Alamo Bowl, Bartlett’s Zack Bowman of Nebraska sealed a 32-28 win over Michigan with a game-saving tackle on a wild final play that featured a pass, a half-dozen laterals and a fumble.

The 2007 Las Vegas Bowl featured one of the most thrilling moments by an Alaska player when East’s Eathyn Manumaleuna blocked a 28-yard field goal on the final play to preserve BYU’s 17-16 win over UCLA.

Lui Fa’amasino football

Lui Fa’amasino

West’s Lui Fa’amasino and Dimond’s Brandon Pili represent the next wave of Anchorage players looking to add their names to the list of bowl heroes when they hit the field this week.

Fa’amasino’s New Mexico State Aggies take on Utah State in the Arizona Bowl and Pili’s USC Trojans face Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.

Other Alaskans on rosters of teams in bowl games but not expected to play include West’s Tevita Fehoko at Kansas State [Cactus Bowl], Service’s Levi Hansen of Washington State [Holiday Bowl] and Dimond’s Ezra Tu’ua at TCU [Alamo Bowl].

“I think it’s really cool to be sharing a bowl experience with another Alaskans,” Fa’amasino told me.

The 6-foot junior linebacker is part of New Mexico State team going to a bowl game for the first time in 57 years. The Aggies qualified by beating South Alabama 22-17 in the final game of the regular season.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the historic win and would say the night we took down South Alabama to makes us eligible will forever be one of my best football moments I’ll always cherish,” Fa’amasino said. “The fans rushing the field was insane and the endless thank yous we got from the community meant a lot.”

Brandon Pili football

Brandon Pili

Pili wasn’t supposed to play this year but forfeited his redshirt status after injuries on the defensive line forced the 6-foot-4, 340-pound freshman into action.

All he did was earn honorable mention all-conference in the Pac-12 in barely half a season.

“Yeah, I think I played pretty well during the time I did play,” Pili told me. “I am happy I didn’t redshirt because I gained a lot of experience from this year and just got the feel for college ball.”

Pili is part of a USC defense that allowed the fourth-fewest rushing touchdowns in the Pac-12.

The Trojans beat Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game to advance to the Cotton Bowl.

“It’s great that we got into a bowl game and I’m excited that I get to play in one as a true freshman,” Pili said.