Brett Pyne | Posted: 10 Oct 2009 | Updated: 28 Jul 2023

Unga Runs Wild, Cougars Crush Rebels in Vegas

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LAS -- Led by Harvey Unga’s 149 yards rushing and Max Hall’s 320 yards passing, No. 18 BYU crushed UNLV 59-21 Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas to improve to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference.

The Cougars dominated from the beginning as the offense, defense and special teams all contributed big plays to the victory.

“I thought we played a good game and improved in a lot of areas,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “I thought our running game looked really good.”

Led by Unga’s season-high 149 yards on 20 carries in just over two quarters of play, BYU churned out a season-best 291 yards on the ground. J.J. Di Luigi added 67 yards on only six carries as the Cougars averaged 6.8 yards per carry overall on the night.

“Harvey is a really good football player,” Mendenhall said. “He’s very consistent.”

Unga and the run game were not the only things that proved to be consistent for BYU on Saturday. The team scored early and scored consistently over the entire game to reach double-digit points in every quarter for the first time since 2006 and only the second time since 1982. The Cougars scored on their first four possessions and never looked back.

After driving 70 yards for a 28-yard Mitch Payne field goal on their first drive, the Cougars quickly increased the advantage to 10 points after getting the ball right back thanks to an athletic, one-handed interception by Jordan Pendleton. Reaching out over the sideline for the ball, the Cougar linebacker managed to not only bring in the ball with his left hand but also keep his feet in play to secure the timely turnover.

Two plays later, Unga raced 33 yards to the end zone for the first of his three first-half touchdowns. The MWC’s leading rusher added a one-yard score and a 52-yard gallop on BYU’s next two possessions to give BYU a 24-7 lead early in the second quarter. Unga’s 52 yard-run was the longest by a BYU back since Mike Hague ran 87 yards for a touchdown against UNLV in 2006.

BYU was leading 17-0 before the Rebels got on the scoreboard with a 94-yard kickoff return by Deante Purvis with 13:05 to go in the half.

Senior safety Scott Johnson joined Pendleton with an interception in the first half, his first career pick and the first of two on the night. Along with the two turnovers, the BYU defense held UNLV to 131 yards of total offense, while the Cougar offense racked up 309 yards in the first two quarters. Unga finished the half with 114 yards on 16 carries and a career-tying three touchdowns.

The nation’s top-rated offense in third-down conversions, BYU continued to execute on the critical down, making first downs on 5-of-7 third-down plays in the first half and 8-of-11 on the night. Tight end Andrew George was a key target, making third-down catches of 34 and 17 yards to keep first-half drives alive. His 17-yard catch was a highlight-reel, diving over-the-shoulder grab in coverage. The senior finished the half with a team-leading 51 receiving yards while totaling 61 for the game.

The third quarter provided more fireworks as BYU took a 45-14 lead heading into the final 15 minutes. The Cougars scored three touchdowns on their four third-quarter possessions with a 35-yard catch by tight end Dennis Pitta, a one-yard run by running back Jo Jo Pili and a 15-yard reception by Di Luigi. Pili’s score also marked the freshman’s first-ever game action for the Cougars.

The Rebels momentarily reduced the deficit to 10 points early in the third quarter after wide receiver Michael Johnson got behind the Cougar defense for a 75-yard touchdown reception. BYU needed only 1:40 to respond with the first of its three-third quarter scores.

Even after UNLV put together its only extended scoring drive of the game, a 10-play, 75-yard effort, BYU once again responded quickly to not allow the Rebels any momentum. O’Neill Chambers raced 97 yards on the ensuing kickoff before being knocked out at the 2-yard line. Reserve quarterback Riley Nelson took his first snap of the game on the next play and used his legs to complete the one-play drive to put BYU up 52-21 with 13:17 remaining. Di Luigi scored a 2-yard touchdown with 8:17 left to complete the scoring.

Hall finished his night with 320 yards and two touchdowns, completing 21-of-27 attempts while adding six yards on the ground. Nelson didn’t attempt a pass during the fourth quarter but added 17 yards on the ground.

BYU amassed a season-best 611 yards of total offense in the win while holding UNLV to 337 yards. The Rebels fall to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the MWC with the loss. BYU improves to 14-3 all-time against UNLV, including an 8-0 record in Las Vegas.

The Cougars travel to San Diego to face San Diego State on Saturday in a 3 p.m. PT kick. The game will be televised nationally on The Mtn.

Box Score (Final)


Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score

----------------- -- -- -- -- -----

BYU................. 10 14 21 14 - 59 Record: (5-1,2-0)

UNLV................ 0 7 7 7 - 21 Record: (2-4,0-2)

Scoring Summary:

1st 05:20 BY - PAYNE, Mitch 28 yd field goal, 12-70 5:00, BY 3 - LV 0

03:36 BY - UNGA, Harvey 33 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 2-36 1:09, BY 10 - LV 0

2nd 13:18 BY - UNGA, Harvey 1 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 8-64 3:40, BY 17 - LV 0

13:05 LV - PURVIS, Deante' 94 yd kickoff return (WATSON, Kyle kick), , BY 17 - LV 7

11:12 BY - UNGA, Harvey 52 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 4-73 1:47, BY 24 - LV 7

3rd 10:20 LV - JOHNSON, M. 75 yd pass from CLAYTON, Omar (WATSON, Kyle kick), 1-80 0:11, BY 24 - LV 14

08:33 BY - PITTA, Dennis 35 yd pass from HALL, Max (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 4-69 1:40, BY 31 - LV 14

04:41 BY - PILI, JoJo 1 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 7-76 2:38, BY 38 - LV 14

02:44 BY - DI LUIGI, JJ 15 yd pass from HALL, Max (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 2-58 0:35, BY 45 - LV 14

4th 13:40 LV - ANTHONY, R. 4 yd pass from CLAYTON, Omar (WATSON, Kyle kick), 10-75 3:56, BY 45 - LV 21

13:17 BY - NELSON, Riley 2 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 1-2 0:05, BY 52 - LV 21

08:17 BY - DI LUIGI, JJ 2 yd run (PAYNE, Mitch kick), 7-57 3:54, BY 59 - LV 21


FIRST DOWNS................... 27 17

RUSHES-YARDS (NET)............ 43-291 19-45

PASSING YDS (NET)............. 320 292

Passes Att-Comp-Int........... 27-21-0 41-25-3

TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS..... 70-611 60-337

Fumble Returns-Yards.......... 0-0 0-0

Punt Returns-Yards............ 4-31 0-0

Kickoff Returns-Yards......... 3-150 8-214

Interception Returns-Yards.... 3-1 0-0

Punts (Number-Avg)............ 2-37.5 5-44.0

Fumbles-Lost.................. 0-0 1-0

Penalties-Yards............... 6-50 6-35

Possession Time............... 35:09 24:51

Third-Down Conversions........ 8 of 11 6 of 12

Fourth-Down Conversions....... 0 of 0 0 of 1

Red-Zone Scores-Chances....... 6-6 1-2

Sacks By: Number-Yards........ 2-18 0-0

RUSHING: BYU-UNGA, Harvey 20-149; DI LUIGI, JJ 6-67; TONGA, Manase 5-29;

KARIYA, Bryan 3-19; NELSON, Riley 4-17; PILI, JoJo 2-6; HALL, Max 1-6; TEAM

2-minus 2. UNLV-CLAUSEN, Mike 5-17; TROTTER, C. 5-14; JOHNSON, M. 2-11; COX,

C.J. 2-3; CLAYTON, Omar 5-0.

PASSING: BYU-HALL, Max 21-27-0-320. UNLV-CLAYTON, Omar 20-32-2-253;

CLAUSEN, Mike 5-9-1-39.

RECEIVING: BYU-TONGA, Manase 5-62; GEORGE, Andrew 3-61; KARIYA, Bryan

3-21; PITTA, Dennis 2-60; THOMPSON, Brett 2-52; CHAMBERS, O'Nei 2-27; ASHWORTH,

Luke 2-9; DI LUIGI, JJ 1-15; HAFOKA, Spencer 1-13. UNLV-WOLFE, Ryan 8-69;

JOHNSON, M. 6-113; PAYNE, Phillip 5-46; ANTHONY, R. 4-59; ROBINSON, J. 1-4; COX,

C.J. 1-1.



SACKS (UA-A): BYU-CLAWSON, Coleby 2-0. UNLV-None.

TACKLES (UA-A): BYU-BILLS, Craig 4-0; CLAWSON, Coleby 3-1; RICH, Andrew

3-1; BAUMAN, Matt 2-2; FUGA, Romney 1-3; BRADLEY, Brando 2-1; DOMAN, Shawn 2-1;

JORGENSEN, Jan 2-1; PENDLETON, Jord 1-2; JOHNSON, Scott 1-2; HUNTER, Shane 2-0;

DENNEY, Brett 2-0; ATKINSON, Jorda 1-1; BELL, Jeff 1-1; FRAZIER, Jameso 1-1;

HOOKS, Terrance 1-1; SO'OTO, Vic 1-0; FISHER, Steven 1-0; AGUIRRE, Lee 1-0;

MARSHALL, Matt 1-0; MEES, Carter 1-0; UALE, Travis 1-0; MENDENHALL, Zek 0-1;

LOGAN, Brian 0-1. UNLV-JONES, Chris 5-5; BEAUCHAMP, J. 2-6; ORTH, Beau 2-5;

MARTIN, Marquel 3-3; BLAIR, David 1-5; TEVASEU, Martin 1-4; MAFI, Heivaha 1-4;

PURVIS, Deante' 3-1; DE GIACOMO, A. 3-1; POINTER, Q. 2-2; DIXON, Travis 2-2;

CARTER, Nate 1-2; AAITUI, Isaako 1-2; FEAGAI, Ramsey 0-3; KRAVETZ, Matt 0-3;

RANDLEMAN, C. 2-0; WOLFE, Ryan 2-0; PAULO, Ronnie 1-1; BROGDON, Chris 1-0;

TAUMUA, Malo 1-0; CHANDLER, Will 1-0; DUNLAP, James 1-0; GRANT, Mike 0-1.


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