Freshman Harvey Unga had a career-night in the Cougars' 24-14 win over UNLV, rushing for 177 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
LAS -- Despite four turnovers, including a career-high three interceptions from sophomore Max Hall, BYU (4-2, 3-0) remained undefeated in the Mountain West Conference with a 24-14 victory over UNLV (2-5, 1-2) on Saturday.
"I'm proud of our team for winning on the road and winning another conference game," Mendenhall said. "That's number one. In terms of clean play, we still have to protect the ball at a higher level. We aren't a finished football team yet, but I'm happy with the win."
Hall was 21-for-33 for 214 yards and one touchdown pass to go along with his three misfires. Meanwhile, freshman running back Harvey Unga had a career night of his own. Unga carried the ball 25 times for 177 yards--both career-highs. In the second half alone, Unga rushed 18 times for 118 yards.
"Harvey's doing a nice job," Mendenhall said. "He's continuing to grow and improve. He's going to be a really talented running back. He's effective out of the backfield catching the football. He's started to become better in protection when we use him there. I'm pleased with his progress to this point."
BYU finished with 441 total yards to the Rebels' 217. The Cougars rushed for 227 yards, while holding UNLV to just 96 yards rushing.
"Where the turnovers were coming, it made more sense to eliminate those options and what was working best with heightened ball security," Mendenhall said. "I do think UNLV played physical and I do think their plan was effective in not allowing big plays to happen. They created turnovers and that's to their credit."
The Rebels capitalized on an early Cougar fumble to take a 3-0 lead off the foot of senior Sergio Aguayo, who booted in a 37-yard field. The score marked just the second time BYU has not scored first this season. The other team to draw first blood against the Cougars was UCLA on, ironically, a 37-yard field goal.
"We believed we were going to beat this team," UNLV head coach Mike Sanford said. "We didn't move the ball enough on offense. We did not execute tonight. We didn't make good decisions, didn't block well enough and we didn't run hard enough. We did not do a good job throwing and catching either."
BYU's shaky start continued when Hall was picked off by Elton Shackelford on third-and-goal with a little more than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Unga made the tackle on what otherwise might have been an uncontested touchdown return.
The Cougars finally got a drive going in the second quarter when, facing a third-and-six on their own 11 yard line, Hall found Unga for a 15-yard reception up the middle. Another 15-yard pass to tight end Dennis Pitta on yet another third down kept the drive alive. Later, Unga broke free for a 32-yard rush, which set up Manase Tonga's sixth rushing touchdown of the year -- a 3-yard dash into the end zone. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 93-yard drive and gave the Cougars a 7-3 advantage.
Aguayo successfully kicked a 43-yard field goal at the 2:45 mark in the first half to make it a 7-6 game at halftime.
The sloppy first half ended with two consecutive turnovers. Senior linebacker Bryan Kehl made his second interception of the season and of his career with 1:01 remaining, and Beau Bell returned the favor 26 seconds later on a Hall pass intended for Michael Reed.
Coming out of the break it was all Unga, as the Cougars marched up the field on a 10-play, 66-yard drive that was topped off with a four-yard touchdown reception by tight end Vic So'oto. So'oto's first-career touchdown gave BYU its largest lead of the night to that point at 14-6. During the drive, Unga had seven rushes for 54 yards.
After a Cougar defensive stand that resulted in a UNLV punt, Unga again took over. The freshman carried the ball four times for 36 yards. Mitch Payne ended the 63-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal at the end of the drive to put BYU up 17-6.
As time expired on the third quarter Pitta, who finished with seven receptions for 97 yards, caught a pass from Hall, broke two tackles and scampered across the field for a gain of 39 yards. The effort went for naught though, as Hall threw a goal line pick, his third of the night, on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The BYU defense once again held, allowing the offense to put the game away for good on a 15-play drive that took nearly nine minutes. Unga trotted into the end zone five yards for the touchdown.
"BYU did a nice job," Sanford said. "We didn't stop the run on defense. They ran the ball on us in the second half and that was the story, really."
BYU plays at home for the first time in three weeks, as the team takes on Eastern Washington Sat., Oct. 20, at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The game, which is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. (MT), will be shown live on The mtn.
Box Score (Final)
BYU Cougars vs UNLV (Oct 13, 2007 at Las Vegas, Nev.)
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score
----------------- -- -- -- -- -----
BYU Cougars......... 0 7 10 7 - 24 Record: (4-2,3-0)
UNLV................ 3 3 0 8 - 14 Record: (2-5,1-2)
1st 07:44 LV - AGUAYO, Sergio 37 yd field goal, 5-8 1:50, BY 0 - LV 3
2nd 06:30 BY - TONGA, Manase 3 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 12-93 6:10, BY 7 - LV 3
02:45 LV - AGUAYO, Sergio 43 yd field goal, 8-57 3:38, BY 7 - LV 6
3rd 09:49 BY - SO'OTO, Vic 4 yd pass from HALL, Max (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 10-
66 5:03, BY 14 - LV 6
01:31 BY - PAYNE, Mitch 27 yd field goal, 14-63 6:41, BY 17 - LV 6
4th 03:15 BY - UNGA, Harvey 5 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 15-81 8:49, BY 24 - LV 6
01:11 LV - ANTHONY, R. 5 yd pass from CLAYTON, Omar (FLAIR, Casey pass
from CLAYTON, Omar), 11-71 1:55, BY 24 - LV 14
FIRST DOWNS................... 26 14
RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 45-227 25-96
PASSING YDS (NET)............. 214 121
Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 33-21-3 26-16-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 78-441 51-217
Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards............ 1-0 1-4
Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 4-104 5-105
Interception Returns-Yards.... 1-12 3-15
Punts (Number-Avg)............ 1-37.0 5-41.2
Fumbles-Lost.................. 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards............... 7-64 5-33
Possession Time............... 37:24 22:36
Third-Down Conversions........ 9 of 15 4 of 11
Fourth-Down Conversions....... 1 of 1 0 of 0
Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 4-5 2-2
Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 0-0 1-6
RUSHING: BYU Cougars-UNGA, Harvey 25-177; TONGA, Manase 10-36; SEMANOFF, Joe
4-14; HALL, Max 4-4; TEAM 2-minus 4. UNLV-SUMMERS, Frank 13-50; DIXON, Travis
8-28; CLAYTON, Omar 2-17; HO-CHING, J. 1-1; PEEPLES, David 1-0.
PASSING: BYU Cougars-HALL, Max 21-33-3-214. UNLV-DIXON, Travis 11-21-1-78;
CLAYTON, Omar 5-5-0-43.
RECEIVING: BYU Cougars-PITTA, Dennis 7-97; UNGA, Harvey 5-44; TONGA, Manase
2-23; SO'OTO, Vic 2-9; COLLIE, Austin 2-4; GEORGE, Andrew 1-15; ALLEN, Matt
1-12; REED, Michael 1-10. UNLV-WOLFE, Ryan 5-50; SUMMERS, Frank 4-12;
ANTHONY,R. 2-27; STRAITEN, Aaron 2-19; FLAIR, Casey 2-6; HO-CHING, J. 1-7.
INTERCEPTIONS: BYU Cougars-KEHL, Bryan 1-12. UNLV-BELL, Beau 2-2;
FUMBLES: BYU Cougars-ALLEN, Matt 1-1; SO'OTO, Vic 1-0. UNLV-None.
SACKS (UA-A): BYU Cougars-None. UNLV-GEATHERS, J. 1-0.
TACKLES (UA-A): BYU Cougars-JORGENSEN, Jan 4-2; NIXON, David 3-2; STAFFIERI,
Mark 4-0; SAULSBERRY, And 4-0; KEHL, Bryan 3-1; BAUMAN, Matt 3-1;
MANUMALEUNA,Eth 3-0; POPPINGA, Kelly 2-1; HODGKISS, Corby 2-0; BOLDEN, Chris
2-0; CRIDDLE, Ben 1-1; GOOCH, Quinn 1-1; JOHNSON, Scott 0-2; HOOKS, Terrance
1-0; NELSON, Grant 1-0; ANDERTON,Judd 1-0; SULLIVAN, Sean 0-1; UNGA, Harvey
0-1;DENNEY, Brett 0-1; WHITE, Reed 0-1. UNLV-BELL, Beau 6-7; CADE, Tony 7-4;
NILES,Bradley 7-2; FUIMAONO, S. 6-3; FORTE, Daryl 4-4; POINTER, Q. 3-2;
HORTON, Shane 2-3; GEATHERS, J. 2-2; TAUMUA, Malo 1-3; HALES, Jacob 2-0;
TEAM 2-0; HOWARD, G. 1-1; JAMES, Mil'Von 1-1; TILLMAN, Ryan 1-0; SMART,
Solomon 1-0; WORTHEN, Rusty 1-0; KAPANUI, Kamu 1-0; BEAUCHAMP, J. 1-0;
ANTHONY, R. 1-0; PILI, Thor 0-1; SHACKELFORD, E. 0-1; FAGA, Faauo 0-1;
THOMAS, Rico 0-1.