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College football: Hungalu is having his finest season at Oregon State

November 2, 2017 - 12:05am

Somewhere in the middle of all of the turmoil involving Oregon State football this season is one constant.

Captain and starting linebacker Manase Hungalu has fought through a sudden midseason coaching change and a 1-7 record through eight games to piece together his finest season as a Beaver.

The fifth-year senior, who ranks eighth in the Pac-12 averaging 7.6 tackles per game, has battled to keep the team together despite the resignation of Gary Andersen, a popular coach among the squad and especially the Polynesian players on the roster, three weeks ago.

Andersen, who played a big role in the growth of OSU’s Hawaii contingent — 10 Hawaii high school graduates are on the current roster, including four freshmen — left a reported $12 million on the table when he resigned because he couldn’t win.

OSU’s only victory was over FCS Portland State, 35-32, and it had lost all five games against FBS opponents by at least 28 points.

After the coaching change, OSU lost by a field goal at Colorado and by a single point against No. 18 Stanford last week.

“There’s an attitude that (interim) Coach (Cory) Hall has brought into the room that has everybody fired up about football,” said Hungalu, a 2013 Kealakehe alumnus. “The mind-set for every player on this team about the way we play has changed and with going out there (the last two games) playing relaxed and having a bit more fun, we’re showing the capability of competing with the best teams in our league.”

The Beavers gave up the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining against the Cardinal, who managed only 15 points against an OSU team that had allowed an average of 46 points per game against FBS opponents.

Hungalu, who broke up four passes in the game, leads OSU with 61 tackles this season. He’s also posted five tackles for loss and intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 238 pounds, Hungalu started his first game as a redshirt sophomore after sitting out his first two seasons.

Former Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker recruited Hungalu to Corvallis. He offered the Kealakehe senior the morning after watching a game on the Big Island while in town to recruit another player.

“I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to make it to college because I couldn’t afford to go to any camps,” Hungalu said. “I had contacted UH to see if I could have a chance to play there, but (coach) Norm Chow turned me down. Right after that, Coach Banker came to one of my games and offered me the next morning. UH offered me like two weeks after that, but I turned them down.”

It took two years for Hungalu to play in a college game. Since taking over as a starter late in his third year at OSU, Hungalu has continued to improve his game and now has a shot to play on Sundays in the near future.

“Just like I tell my little nephews and cousins, a lot of people underestimate the (term) hard work,” Hungalu said. “It’s easy to say you work hard, but I mean, if you’re willing to compete with the best players around the country, then you can’t underestimate hard work.

“Coming from Hawaii, my parents worked hard to support their family, and even when I’m working hard, I know they are working harder. So for me, to work hard is something I have to do. I’m always thinking about my parents, and even when they are tired, they don’t have any other options, they have to work hard. So I never underestimate what it means to work hard.”

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