PROVO Mountain West Conference champion BYU placed six football players on the all-conference first team, plus freshman running back Harvey Unga was named the league's Freshman of the Year.
"Harvey has had an exceptional season," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, his ability to run the ball with power played a critical role in our conference championship."
After two straight undefeated campaigns in the league, the Cougars managed two fewer players on the first team roster than third-place New Mexico, which had eight. The Lobos have had 33 players named All-MWC in five years, 12 more than any other team in that span without a championship. The Cougars led the league in total offense (40th in the NCAA) and total defense (10th in the NCAA) but managed fewer honorees in the voting.
Led by sophomore quarterback Max Hall, the MWC's total offense leader, other BYU offensive players on the first team were sophomore tight end Dennis Pitta and offensive linemen Ray Feinga and Dallas Reynolds, who all return next season. On the second team offense, the Cougars were represented by receiver Austin Collie and Unga.
On defense, the MWC first team included senior linebacker Bryan Kehl and sophomore defensive end Jan Jorgensen, who led the league in sacks this past season. Making the second-team defense was senior linebacker Kelly Poppinga.
Air Force running back Chad Hall edged out BYU's Hall for Offensive Player of the Year honors, while Air Force's rookie coach Troy Calhoun received more support from a panel of coaches and media voters for Coach of the Year after leading the Falcons to a second-place finish in his first year. Mendenhall, who has not lost a MWC game the past two seasons, won the honor a year ago.
Two Cougars who were totally overlooked in the voting were junior offensive guard Travis Bright, BYU's strongest player, and senior center Seta Aulai, both effective power blockers in the league's most productive offense.
Both Kehl and Jorgensen received consideration for MWC Defensive Player of the Year honors and votes for both likely took them out of the running as UNLV linebacker Beau Bell received that honor. Jorgensen led the MWC in sacks with 11.5 (9th in NCAA) and tackles for loss with 16 unassisted and four assisted (12th in the NCAA).
Unga, a first-year player for the Cougars out of Timpview High, was easily the most productive and gifted freshman in the league. On the year, Unga finished No. 3 in the MWC and No. 31 nationally in rushing, averaging 100.9 yards per game. He ranks as the No. 3 freshman rusher in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 1,211 yards.
"I have been impressed with his humility, his unselfish play and his commitment to this team. I believe he has a bright future," said Mendenhall.
Unga follows Luke Staley and Austin Collie as other Cougars to receive the honor. In the Las Vegas Bowl against UCLA on Dec. 22, Unga needs six yards to become the MWC's freshman rushing leader since inception of the MWC in 1999.
Unga shattered the MWC all-purpose yards mark by a freshman with 1,840 yards set by New Mexico's DonTrell Moore in 2002.Unga, Hall, Pitta and Collie return next season on a Cougar offense that loses only center Sete Aulai and senior receiver Matt Allen.
2007 MWC HONORS
Offensive Player of the Year: Chad Hall, Sr., RB/WR, Air Force
Defensive Player of the Year: Beau Bell, Sr., LB, UNLV
Special Teams Player of the Year: Louie Sakoda, Jr., PK/P, Utah
Freshman of the Year: Harvey Unga, RB, BYUCoach of the Year: Troy Calhoun, Air Force