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  • Writer's pictureAdam Gibby

BYU Football Top 100: No. 19 Harvey Unga, Putting Defenders on their Back

We are under 20 days away from the start of the 2019 BYU Football season.

Getting to watch Taysom Hill play last night in the NFL Preseason game was a lot of fun to watch. Even though he has improved quite a bit since he played at BYU, his tendencies and ability to scramble reminded me of so many fun memories I have of when he played for the Cougars, particularly his sophomore and junior seasons.

It is also nice to have some players in the NFL who play skill positions. Sure, the Utes have more players in the NFL, but with Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams getting as much publicity as they do, I wouldn't trade them, no respect to their great players.

Today's player in the Countdown is one of the all time great skill position players that is the second best running back on our list.

No. 19 Harvey Unga - Running Back - 2006-2009

BYU fans loved their team from 2006-2009 when the team was a combined 43-9, but I don't think fans realized how good that was. Look at Ohio State Wisconsin the last three seasons. They are 48-6 and 42-12. BYU was right there with them for those four years, yet it didn't feel like it.

There are a lot of reasons why that team was really good. Great defense that only gave up 20 PPG behind players like Cameron Jensen, David Nixon, Jan Jorgensen and Brian Logan. The offense had Austin Collie, Max Hall, Jonny Harline, John Beck and perhaps the most important player on that team, Harvey Unga.


Impact A+

Harvey Unga isn't buried under the other names, however because of the guys he played with, he sometimes isn't recognized for how good he actually was. Without him though, defenses would have been able to go back into pass coverage more which would have affected the ability of the receivers and quarterbacks. But because he was as dominant as he was, teams were forced to stay thin in the secondary or else give up a big play on the ground. He had games where without him, the team would have lost, even with another capable back.

Statistics A

Unga is the first and only BYU Running Back to rush for 1,000 yards for three seasons. What is crazy is, it wasn't like the Cougars were running a Wisconsin offense. Max Hall was also throwing for 3,000 yards + each of those seasons. In total, Unga recorded 3,455 rush yards, 1,085 receiving yards, 44 touchdowns, and only four fumbles on 798 touches. His most impressive stat though is that he averaged 4.98 yards per carry. His career long was a 52 yard run, meaning it wasn't like that average was being brought up by a bunch of outlier 80+ yard runs. The one area he loses points is he didn't play his senior year for Honor Code violations. While it is unlikely the Cougars would have gone 11-2 again with Riley Nelson/Jake Heaps, he could have helped that team out a bunch.

Memorable Moments B+

The bad first. Missing out on his senior seasons really did hurt his legacy a bit. He wasn't treated bad or disrespected, but I remember the pit in my stomach that I felt knowing that Unga wasn't going to be playing in 2010.

The good outweighs the bad. Unga's 4,540 yards in three seasons (technically he played a tiny bit in 2006 and gained nine yards) are full of great moments. Whether it was the game winning touchdown against Utah in 2007 with 38 seconds left, the 175 all-purpose yards he gained against Washington, or his 211 yard, three touchdown performance against UNLV. What is most memorable about Unga though is his running style. He wasn't very quick for a running back (hence the 53 yard long run), but he was agile and could put defenders on their back with his power running.

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