Happy Independence Day!
The 4th of July. The day we celebrate and remember the United States of America declaring independence from England. A lot has been written about that day 236 years ago, but two words could sum it all up: Magic happened. That is also what happened to Brigham Young Cougars football five years ago.
Wide receiver Austin Collie made a 49-yard reception on 4th-and-18 with less than two minutes to play to keep BYU’s hopes alive for a win over archrival Utah. Five plays later, running back Harvey Unga carried the ball across the goal line. BYU won 17-10.
After the game, when asked about the way the game ended, Collie finished his remarks with the words: “Magic happens.” While definitely appropriate for that game, it wasn’t the only time during the 2007 season when magic happened.
Having lost second-round NFL draft pick John Beck, two-time All-Mountain West Conference (MWC) tight end Jonny Harline, and all-time leading rusher Curtis Brown from the 2006 offense, it was going to take some magic for BYU repeat the 11-2 overall record, perfect 8-0 MWC record, MWC Championship, and Las Vegas Bowl victory.
Quarterback Max Hall replaced John Beck, and magic happened. The sophomore passed for 3,848 yards to lead all sophomores in the nation.
Dennis Pitta took over the tight end duties, and magic happened. He led the team in receptions (56) and inherited Harline’s spot as the first-team All-MWC tight end.
Harvey Unga became the team’s feature back, as a freshman, and magic happened. He turned in the greatest freshman performance ever by a BYU Cougar. Unga rushed for more yards than Brown ever did in a single season.
These three plus Collie (946 yards receiving, 723 yards returning kickoffs) made magic happen that season. BYU swept the MWC again and returned to the Las Vegas Bowl as MWC Champions with a 10-2 record.
In a hard fought game, BYU held a 17-16 advantage with just 2:02 to play. UCLA was on its own two-yard line. Victory was assured, right? Twelve plays later, UCLA had moved 87 yards to the BYU 11-yard line. There was only time for one more play.
UCLA had positioned the ball exactly in the middle of the field. Kicker Kai Forbath was 3 of 3 on the night, and had made over 86% of his field goal attempts that season. This 28-yard attempt was little more than a point-after touchdown attempt, and he was a perfect 30 of 30 on those that year.
The writing was on the wall. BYU was going to lose this game. The snap was perfect. The hold was good. The kick was up and … no good! Freshman defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna got a hand on the ball and prevented the kick from reaching the uprights. BYU won 17-16. The Cougars were 11-2 for the second consecutive season.
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