SAN DIEGO Already the first BYU player to ever eclipse 1,000 yards rushing as a freshman, BYU running back Harvey Unga is now only 6 yards away from becoming the most prolific first-year running back in Mountain West Conference history.
Saturday against San Diego State, Unga rumbled for 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 23 carries, bringing him to 1,211 yards for the 2007 season. With a bowl game still left to play, Unga poses a serious threat to the existing MWC mark for freshman rushing of 1,216 yards set by Keith Boyea of Air Force in 2001.
In addition to his three-touchdown runs Saturday, Unga also scored the game's first points on an 8-yard pass from Max Hall early in the first quarter. Those four scores bring Unga's season totals to 13 rushing and four receiving touchdowns. His 17 scores put Unga second for Division I-A freshmen, trailing only Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree and his 21 touchdown catches.
POINT OF CONTENTION? Holding a 41-27 lead and facing fourth-and-2 at the SDSU 13-yard line with less than five minutes left in the game, the Cougars eschewed a field goal attempt and instead went for the first down. The result was a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Dennis Pitta that essentially iced that game.
Although the SDSU radio announcers derided the move to go for the touchdown at that point in the game as running up the score, neither coach voiced similar concerns afterward.
"That was a frustrating moment," Aztecs coach Chuck Long said. "They had a great play, and they executed it. With one stop of course we were still in the game at that point. They thought, 'We can slam the door right now,' which they pretty much did."
Asked whether he thought calling for the fourth-down pass was excessive, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall succinctly responded, "I didn't think so, and neither did their coaches or players as far as I could tell."
DEFENSIVE NOTES: SDSU quarterback Kevin O'Connell's 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Saturday's game marked the first time that a BYU opponent reached the end zone in the opening quarter since the Cougars' 55-47 loss Sept. 15 at Tulsa.
The Aztecs also joined the Golden Hurricane as the only other team this year to score a touchdown against BYU in all four quarters.