FRISCO, Texas – Eastern Washington nose tackle and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year Jay-Tee Tiuli ended his college career suspended for both the FCS semifinal and national championship game.
Tiuli was arrested Dec. 9 in Cheney and later charged with second-degree misdemeanor assault and missed EWU’s 50-19 semifinal win over Maine.
He flew to Texas with the team Wednesday and participated in team functions, but coach Aaron Best said he wouldn’t have a decision from the university if Tiuli could play in the title game until Friday night or Saturday morning.
Tiuli was on the sideline Saturday but didn’t suit up in the Eagles’ 38-24 loss to North Dakota State.
Dylan Ledbetter, a starting defensive tackle, slid over to nose tackle to replace Tiuli.
Did Ledbetter find out Friday night that he’d be filling in for the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Tiuli?
“No, I’ve known for a while,” Ledbetter said after the title game.
Ledbetter said he thought EWU’s defensive line played well in Tiuli’s absence.
“I think everyone responded well and stepped up,” Ledbetter said. “Jay-Tee was with us the whole way. He’s been in our corner, coaching us up.”
NDSU coach Chris Klieman said he didn’t change his game plan around Tiuli’s availability.
“I don’t think we changed anything. In fact, I know we didn’t change anything of our game plan,” he said.
Ledbetter said he was frustrated when his defense couldn’t get off the field in the fourth quarter when the Bison went on a 10-minute drive.
“As a defense, you want to buckle down and get them off the field,” Ledbetter said. “But we have to be able to stop them. That’s too much.”
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