One thing BYU learned this week is to give Harvey Unga the football.
Unga was a one man wrecking crew against the weak UNLV defense. Unga ended up with 149 yards on the ground, with almost all of those yards coming in the first half. What was most impressive about Unga was his speed.
For the first time this season Unga looked like he was running injury free. With Unga running at full speed he was able to demonstrate why he is so important to BYU’s offense.
The best player on BYU for the last three seasons has been Harvey Unga. He is simply the most versatile player on the entire Cougar roster.
Harvey Unga saw limited minutes in the first three games of the season, but he is once again on pace to have another 1,000 yard season. He has already scored eight rushing touchdowns this season, and including three in the first half against UNLV.
Unga is currently ranked 21st in yards per game in the nation, and is averaging six and a half yards a carry on the ground. Unga is the top running back in the conference, and leads the entire conference in scoring (averaging 9.60 points per game).
Unga’s stats could really be padded at this point in the season, if BYU had chosen to give the ball to their workhorse in blowouts. Rather BYU chose to spread the wealth of scoring opportunities to the entire stable of running backs.
BYU is better when Unga has the ball in his hands.
When BYU is able to establish the running game, it makes BYU near impossible to beat. That is when Unga has the opportunity to get the ball.
On the ground Unga is a mixture of power and speed. He is best when he is running North and South; however, he does have the speed and agility to make defenders miss and blow by them with a burst of speed.
One of the biggest problems Unga has faced since coming to BYU is the ineffective play calling of Robert Anae to establish the run. It would seem that BYU would forget about the weapon they have in Unga. BYU would try to win games strictly through the air. Using players like Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, and Johnny Harline rather than Harvey.
Last season against TCU, Utah, and Arizona, all BYU losses, Unga had less than 20 total carries. In the Utah game last season Unga averaged 7.7 yards a carry, but only carried the ball 15 times.
This season against Florida State, Unga only carried the ball 10 times, but had 97 yards. He averaged 9.7 yards a carry; however, BYU was reluctant to establish the running game.
Since the Florida State victory Unga has had more than 20 carries in every game. He has also produced over a hundred yards per game—including gaining over a hundred yards in the first half against UNLV.
In the last three seasons BYU has only lost a single game in which Harvey Unga has more than 20 carries.
In addition to his running ability, Unga has excellent hands. He is a sure handed receiver out of the backfield. He had over 40 catches in each of the last two seasons.
This season Unga has just a single pass reception. This lack of receiving productivity is most likely due to the injuries he has been fighting this season. He strained his hamstring in fall camp, and then broke his pinky blocking during a game.
One of the weaknesses in Unga’s game the past two seasons was his blocking ability. Yet, this season he has shown some improvement in this area of his game. This has enabled him to be in the game with different offensive packages.
BYU experimented last season with Unga lining up in the Wildcat formation, and taking some direct snaps. This formation was very successful last season against Utah. BYU has not incorporated that wrinkle into the offense this season.
For such an explosive and valuable lesson it seems Unga is too often forgotten by the BYU offense. The past few seasons BYU has been quick to abandon the running game.
The lack of a running game has led to BYU losing the battle of time of possession, and also not giving their defense a proper amount of time to rest. Defenses are able to sit back in the secondary and play the pass, which leads to BYU’s opponents getting more sacks and interceptions.
With a major showdown against TCU just two weeks away, BYU has to continue to utilize its strongest weapon—Harvey Unga.