Sunday, November 22, 2009

Unga Sets Cougs' Rushing Mark

As self analysis, Harvey Unga's description of the way he totes the football is beautiful and simple.

It is also misleading. Brutes don't own his footwork and the ability to make tacklers miss.

"Honestly, you guys can explain it better than me," the BYU runner said moments after the Cougars' 38-21 victory against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. "I just try to get out there and run the ball as hard as I can. I just try to make plays."

If trying was just enough, every back would rush for 1,000 yards a season and wind up as their school's all-time rushing leader. So, there is more to it than just wanting to go out and make plays.

The rest of the Mountain West Conference should also take note. Unga, who surpassed Curtis Brown's career rushing mark of 3,221 yards, is a junior. He'll be back.

Unga needed 21 yards to break Brown's mark. In addition, Unga was four carries away from passing Brown in that category as well.

For the day, Unga, nursing a sprained left ankle, did enough work in the first half to gain 67 yards on 11 carries. He needs 100 yards next week against Utah for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.

"With Harvey healthy throughout the first half, we knew we'd have to use him and that gave us the balance we were looking for," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "When Harvey's healthy and we're able to run and throw the football, we're very hard to stop on offense."

Unga also caught three passes, which speaks to his ability to add another dimension to BYU's attack.

First and foremost, though, Unga's job is to gain the hard yards between the tackles. He gives the Cougars an aura of toughness. Often, as it has been this season, Unga took advantage of big holes, then broke tackles.

"It's great to block for Harvey," offensive lineman Terence Brown said. "He hits the hole hard and he does us a lot of favors, too. We don't block perfect on every play.

"We love Harvey. He's probably in there right now thanking the O-line."

He was.

Unga burst upon the BYU scene in 2007 as a freshman. He gained 1,227 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. The next season, Unga gained 1,132 yards with 11 scores.

While Unga may not match those numbers this year, his per carry average is an amazing 5.6.

"I wouldn't say I'm the most fanciest runner out there," he said. "My object is to get a first down, then eventually get into the end zone. I just try to play hard-nosed football."

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