Editor’s Note: A list of honorable mention freshmen is included below in the comments section. Some readers have emailed about players omitted from the list. They will be addressed in the Friday Mailbag later today.
The unwritten rule for Timpview High School football players is that they stay in Provo, Utah, and play football for the Brigham Young Cougars. Therefore, it was not a question of if, but when, Harvey Unga would play for BYU. The answer to that question was "longer than expected," but Unga’s redshirt freshman year in 2007 was well worth the wait.
Unga was part of the Cougars’ 2005 recruiting class. He delayed his enrollment at the Y until January 2006. The next fall, BYU had senior running back Curtis Brown coming off a 1,100+ yard rushing season. There was also a return missionary named Fui Vakapuna ahead of Unga on the depth chart. Unga’s playing time was going to be limited to the end of games when BYU had a big lead.
Unga got his first chance in game two against Tulsa. He carried the ball four times for nine yards and one touchdown. It was also his last chance. Shortly thereafter, Unga was injured for the season and claimed a medical hardship to retain his freshman year of eligibility.
When 2007 rolled around, Brown had graduated and the coaches moved Vakapuna to fullback. Unga was going to be the man from day one.
In the season opener, Unga showed no signs of injury or his freshman status. He led the team in rushing and receiving yards (67 and 127, respectively). He scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground, which was more than the entire Arizona team. It was official: Harvey Unga was going to be a household name.
His opportunities to carry the ball were limited in game two when BYU fell behind early to UCLA, but in game three Unga got 21 carries and reached the 100 yard milestone for the first time. He would repeat that feat six more times that season. His seven 100-yard rushing games was second most in school history by any player.
All year long, Unga continued to be a dominating force that defenses had no answer for. They couldn’t stop him when he ran the ball. They couldn’t cover him on pass routes. They couldn’t keep him out of the end zone. Including the season opener, Unga outscored the opponent, or scored enough touchdowns to outscore the opponent with the extra points, five times (Arizona, Air Force, Eastern Washington, Wyoming, San Diego State). Unga reached the end zone seven consecutive games.
Unga compiled a nice list of highlights. On the very first offensive play of the game, Unga burned Colorado State for a 53-yard reception. He scored the winning touchdown in the waning moments of the game against archrival Utah.
Just as Unga’s freshman year was postponed, the San Diego State game was postponed due to wildfires in the area and moved to the end of the season. Appropriately, Unga had his best game of the season when the game was finally played. He went off for 161 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns. He added three receptions for 29 yards and a fourth touchdown through the air. His four touchdown/24 points in a single game is the second highest total in BYU history (four players have scored 5 touchdowns/30points).
It was a freshman season to remember. Forget the freshman thing. It was a season to remember. Unga’s 1,227 rushing yards was fourth most in a season in BYU history, 13 rushing touchdowns was tied for sixth most, 17 total touchdowns was second all time, 1,882 all-purpose yards was second most (currently third), 102 points scored was fourth most. He was the MWC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American.
Why number 1?
All those stats in the paragraph above are BYU freshmen records, as well as the aforementioned seven 100-yard rushing games, and his two 100-yard receiving games. That is seven significant freshman records, and six of those fair well when compared with what sophomores, juniors, and seniors have done at BYU. Unga’s 655 receiving yards was second most for a freshman.
Breakout game: Arizona (game 1)
Best game: San Diego State (game 12)
Game-by-Game Stats, 2007
Arizona: 15 carries, 67 yards*, 1 TD
UCLA: 5 car., 28 yards*
Tulsa: 21 car., 100 yards*, 1 TD
Air Force: 22 car., 111 yards*
New Mexico: 22 car., 56 yards*
UNLV: 25 car., 177 yards*, 1 TD
Eastern Washington: 21 car., 145 yards*, 1 TD
Colorado State: 11 car., 51 yards*, 1 TD
TCU: 16 car., 64 yards*, 2 TD
Wyoming: 23 car., 110 yards*, 2 TD
Utah: 23 car., 141 yards*, 1 TD
San Diego State: 23 car., 161 yards*, 3 TD
UCLA: 17 car., 16 yards
Totals: 244 car., 1,227 yards, 13 TD
Arizona: 9 receptions, 127 yards, 1 TD
UCLA: 3 rec., 43 yards
Tulsa: 2 rec., 35 yards
Air Force: 4 rec., 49 yards, 1 TD
New Mexico: 2 rec., 34 yards
UNLV: 5 rec., 44 yards
Eastern Washington: 4 rec., 57 yards, 1 TD
Colorado State: 3 rec., 110 yards
TCU: 2 rec., 13 yards
Wyoming: 3 rec., 61 yards
Utah: 1 rec., 27 yards
San Diego State: 3 rec., 29 yards, 1 TD
UCLA: 3 rec., 26 yards
Totals: 44 rec., 655 yards, 4 TD
Top 10 BYU Freshmen
10. Cody Hoffman, 2010
9. Greg Pitts, 1991
8. Jamal Willis, 1991
7. Luke Staley, 1999
6. David Nixon, 2003
5. Mike Morgan, 1979
4. Austin Collie, 2004
3. Randy Brock, 1991
2. Ronney Jenkins, 1996
1. Harvey Unga, 2007
The Editor appreciates all feedback. He can be reached via email at email@example.com