You can affect throws a couple different ways besides sacks. So it was ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’ at their best. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, on Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah defensive tackles Lowell Lotulelei and Filipo Mokofisi were given a moniker following the Utes’ 19-13 win at BYU. Head coach Kyle Whittingham dubbed the duo “Thing One” and “Thing Two” after their performances in the Utes’ seventh straight victory in the Rivalry Game.
Lotulelei and Mokofisi were named players of the game by Whittingham for the pressure Utah applied up front. BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, who completed 21 of 39 passes for 170 yards, was intercepted three times and sacked three times by the Utes’ defense. They broke up six passes and recorded three quarterback hurries.
Defensive line coach Lewis Powell said it was Lotulelei’s “best game as a Ute.” He also noted that Mokofisi played very well.
“Together they played a lot of reps,“ said Powell, who added that both linemen saw 54 snaps in Provo. “I feel like they didn’t want to get off the field.”
The senior captains broke up a pass in the game and teamed on Utah’s first interception by an interior lineman since Greg Newman had one in 2008 against Wyoming.
Mokofisi recorded the pick after securing a ball tipped by Lotulelei.
“It was the perfect storm for Filipo. The ball came right to him, right in his gut. I think he bobbled it for a second and then he got control and got us a few positive yards,” Whittingham said. “But the catalyst was Lowell getting his hands up. That’s something we stress with the D-line ad nauseam. I mean it’s every day, all day.”
Whittingham explained that in addition to getting to the quarterback, defenders are encouraged to get their hands up and into the throwing lanes.
"You can affect throws a couple different ways besides sacks,” Whittingham said. “So it was ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’ at their best.”
Both players, though, credited being in proper position as much as anything for making the play.
“It was just a matter of us being in the right spots doing the right thing,” Lotulelei said. “I don’t know really what to say about it other than that.”
The interception was Mokofisi’s first since taking one back for a touchdown as a senior at Woods Cross High School.
“It wasn’t just me. It was all the guys putting me in that position so I’m just happy I have the guys around me to do that,” Mokofisi said. “Lowell batted it down and I kind of saw it out of the corner of my eye.”
Mokofisi noted that after catching the ball he just tried to cover it up and not fumble. The interception, he acknowledged, felt really good considering the circumstances.
Powell, who intercepted passes in consecutive years (2002-03) during his career as an interior defensive lineman at Utah, said it was the perfect week to get one.
Lotulelei and Mokofisi, he explained, were determined to join players from previous senior classes to never lose to BYU.
“Those guys went out and had fun and they played their butts off and came up with the victory,” Powell said. “So it was awesome to go in the there and come up with the ‘W.’”
In a team meeting Monday, Whittingham described them as “Thing One” and “Thing Two,” the mischievous characters in the Dr. Seuss book “The Cat in the Hat.”
It didn’t take long to get a reaction from the players.
“As everyone was clapping for us I just leaned over to Flip and said I was ‘Thing One,’” said Lotulelei, who noted that a friendly argument has ensued ever since.
Lotulelei even mentioned to Mokofisi that because of where they sit in the team meeting room — when Whittingham stands at the front — that supports his stance.
“So I told Flip you always read from left to right so it’s ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two,’” Lotulelei said.
Powell joked that the individual titles should be given to whoever plays best this weekend against San Jose State.
“It’s just funny because me and Flip have been playing together since we were freshmen,” Lotulelei said. “So it’s just a funny nickname.”
Meanwhile, on the field, the 24th-ranked Utes (2-0) have more serious things on their minds.
Lotulelei explained that they're taking things one game at a time.
“Right now our main focus is just San Jose,” he said.
After two games, Utah tops the Pac-12 in rushing defense (59 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (90.8 rating). The Utes also lead the conference in fewest opponent first downs (25).
“Pretty good start,” Mokofisi said. “We just have to get better.”