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BYU football: Broken pinkie finger won't sideline Unga

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 30 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

BYU's Harvey Unga, who suffered a broken pinkie in Saturday's game against Colorado State, avoids a tackle before scoring a TD against the Rams.     (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's Harvey Unga, who suffered a broken pinkie in Saturday's game against Colorado State, avoids a tackle before scoring a TD against the Rams. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — BYU running back Harvey Unga is dealing with another injury, but it isn't expected to keep him out of Friday's game against Utah State.

Unga suffered a broken pinkie finger on his right hand early on in the Colorado State game. He still rushed 22 times for 113 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-23 victory over the Rams last Saturday.

Unga, who wore a soft cast during Tuesday's practice, said he plans to play against the Aggies. "As far as I'm concerned, yeah. Unless something else comes up."

While answering questions from reporters after Tuesday's practice, Unga downplayed the injury and joked about it.

"It hurts like any other broken finger, I'm assuming," he said. "I've got four other good ones. That helps out. ... The only thing that holds me back is that stupid cast thing they're having me put on for practice to protect it. ... Hopefully (trainers will) tape it to the other finger (on Friday) and we'll be good to go."

BYU's Harvey Unga, avoids a tackle against Colorado State. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's Harvey Unga, avoids a tackle against Colorado State. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Unga's hand won't be operated on because it would require putting pins in the finger, which would mean he would not be able to play. "(The injury) doesn't seem to bother him, so it's not going to bother us," Mendenhall said. "He would like to play."

Added Mendenhall, "It's too small to put screws in (the finger), so they'd have to put pins in it. They'll probably fix it after the season."

"There was an option to have surgery or not have surgery," Unga said. "They're still going over that, the trainers and doctors."

Asked if he could undergo surgery after the season, Unga said, "Hopefully it will be healed by then. But if not, I'll probably have surgery. I really don't know what the deal is. I'm playing it by ear right now."

The injury occurred on one of BYU's first plays from scrimmage last Saturday while Unga was blocking for fullback Manase Tonga.

BYU's Harvey Unga, who suffered a broken pinkie in Saturday's game against Colorado State, avoids a tackle before scoring a TD against the Rams. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's Harvey Unga, who suffered a broken pinkie in Saturday's game against Colorado State, avoids a tackle before scoring a TD against the Rams. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"I was blocking a guy and my hand got caught in his pads," Unga explained. "He was going one way and I was going another. I tried to shove him and got caught up in there."

Unga said the injury will force him to grip the ball tighter when he runs, but it shouldn't affect his play.

During the past month, Unga has dealt with a hamstring injury that he said is improving.

"It's a hard thing to work over. Some days it feels great, other days, it's a little tighter than it was before," he said. "Overall, the hamstring's coming along just fine. Hopefully, the finger will get better faster than (the hamstring). We'll see."

AFUTITI SIGHTING: Defensive lineman Bernard Afutitu, who was ruled academically ineligible during the summer, was at practice Tuesday. Mendenhall said he's being allowed to practice from time to time as he works on getting back in good academic standing.

Afutiti will not play this year, Mendenhall said. If Afutiti's grades improve, he could participate in spring ball.

INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker Matt Bauman (knee sprain) is "ahead of schedule," Mendenhall said. Defensive linemen Russell Tialavea (knee) and Vic So'oto (broken finger) won't play against Utah State, but both players are listed as "probable" for the UNLV game on Oct. 10. So'oto underwent surgery on his finger Tuesday, Mendenhall said.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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