Flashback: Running Back By Committee

The last two seasons, the Brigham Young Cougars have used a "running back by committee" approach to rushing the ball. While this was a break from the traditional method, it wasn't the first time that BYU has used this approach. A committee of Cougars carried the ball for the 1977 team.

Going into the season 35 years ago, BYU expected two seniors to guide the ground attack: Todd Christensen and Roger Gourley. Little did the coaches or players know that two newcomers, a freshman and a junior college transfer, would leave their mark in the rushing totals. A mid-season injury to Christensen opened the door for a fifth rusher to join the bunch.

As stated, Christensen and Gourley were the veterans. They led the team with 79 and 76 carries, respectively. In BYU's pass happy offense, Gourley finished the year with career highs 294 yards and two touchdowns. Despite missing two games, Christensen had 290 yards rushing and a career high three rushing touchdowns.

Christensen missed games six (at Wyoming) and seven (Arizona) with an injury. Bill Ring started in place of Christensen for both games. Ring had a season-high 91 yards rushing at Wyoming. He scored his only touchdown of the season in the Homecoming game against Arizona. At season's end, he was just behind Christensen and Gourley with 262 yards on 58 carries.

The biggest surprise in the run game for BYU in 1977 was freshman Scott Phillips. The 6-foot-2 tailback from nearby Springville, Utah, led the team in rushing yards (328), rushing touchdowns (5), and average yards per carry (6.9). He had just 47 carries on the season.

The other newcomer to have an impact was junior college transfer Casey Wingard. In the second game of the year, a regionally televised game against Utah State, Wingard showcased some speed. He got loose for a 45-yard touchdown jaunt. It was the longest run of the season for any BYU player. Of the group, Wingard got the least amount of work. With a robust 5.8 yards per carry average, he still managed to finish with 192 yards on just 33 carries.

These five players totaled 1,363 yards rushing, which accounted for 96 percent of the Cougars' total rushing yards that year. Astonishingly, the players were only separated by an average of 34 yards each. It might have been unconventional, but it got the job done as BYU finished 9-2 on the season.

NOTE: Christensen and Gourley both had more receiving yards than rushing yards. Christensen led the team in receptions with 50 and was third on the team with 603 receiving yards. Gourley was fifth on the team with 330 receiving yards.

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