At 6 feet, 221 pounds, BYU’s Harvey Unga has carried a large portion of the Cougar offensive load this season.
While that could be seen as a heavy burden for a red-shirt freshman, Unga handles it week in and week out just fine.
Whether he’s rumbling downfield, leaving broken and bruised defenders in his wake, or plucking the ball out of the air on a short swing pass, Unga will be smiling all the way to the end zone.
His versatile abilities out of the backfield to run the ball, or be used as a receiver, have filled the void left by last year’s do-everything running back, Curtis Brown.
In BYU’s 35-16 dismantling of Colorado State, Unga took the Cougars 53 yards downfield on the first play from scrimmage as Max Hall found him open out of the backfield.
The Cougars scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass to receiver Michael Reed to take an early 7-0 to finish the drive.
Midway through the third quarter, Unga passed former BYU running back Ronnie Jenkins as the all-time rushing leader at BYU as a freshman.
"I prefer that he doesn’t know he has the record, just like I didn’t know he had the record," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Jenkins rushed for 733 yards in his rookie season back in 1996, while Unga has now amassed 735 yards with four regular season games remaining on the schedule.
"I’m grateful for the accomplishment," Unga said. "It’s a stepping stone to the future."
The kid out of Timpview High School, who red-shirted last season after a hip injury against Boston College sidelined him for the year, rushed for 51 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown against the Rams.
As a receiver, he also caught three balls for 110 yards, including the 53-yarder to open the game.
Unga’s offensive efficiency has taken some of the pressure off sophomore quarterback Max Hall, who after a hot start has struggled in his last two games.
Against UNLV Unga rushed for 177 yards after the offense turned the ball over several times in the first half.
The following week at home against Eastern Washington, the freshman ran for 145 yards on a snowy afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
With the win the Cougars became bowl eligible for the third year in a row after not appearing in a bowl game since 2001.
Thanks, in large part, to the outstanding play of Unga, the Cougars are looking to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions.