BYU Football was back.
In just 2 seasons under Bronco Mendenhall, BYU had gone from the doldrums of 3 consecutive losing seasons to a 10-win program that Haka’d their way to a post-season ranking of 16. John Beck, Curtis Brown, and Johnny Harline were all important senior leaders that needed to be replaced heading into 2007.
At quarterback, a feisty, borderline arrogant transfer from Arizona State was slated to take over for John Beck. Max Hall was a big recruit; he was named the top quarterback in Arizona as a senior. Fresh off a mission, Hall was expected to step into the hallowed spot of starting quarterback at BYU as a sophomore.
Max delivered. There was never a quarterback controversy. He owned the spot. He was awarded as the 1st Team All-MWC quarterback in 2007. He would go on to be the winningest quarterback in BYU history.
Curtis Brown finished his career with the Cougars as the All-time leading rusher. The rumor heading into the 2007 season was the BYU had a running back coming in from Timpview that was able to catch passes out of the backfield and punish on the ground. He was as fast as Curtis and even bigger. Harvey Unga was the presumed perfect replacement.
As it would turn out, Harvey Unga would replace Curtis Brown in the record books. Unga would lead the “Tongan Trio” of himself, Fui Vakapuna, and Manase Tonga in delivering the punishment from the backfield. Harvey’s 1,272 yards as a freshman in 2007 would actually represent his most productive season as a Cougars — and that’s saying something.
Johnny Harline was a monster in the passing game and had the “Answered Prayer” catch. To replace Harline, the Cougars looked to a walk-on who received no division-1 scholarship offers.
Dennis Pitta came in to lead the Cougars in receiving, and became the most accomplished tight end in BYU history, as well as the NCAA career leader in receiving yards by a tight end.
The notion that everything came together for the 2007 Cougars is really proof that “Magic Happens.”
The 2007 BYU football team added 3 unproven players to key positions. A hot prospect, a local recruit, and a walk-on. All of them went on to break career records at BYU. That’s simply magical.
Beyond that, they all sparkled in their first season as a starter leading the Y to an 11-2 record (1 of 11 seasons in which BYU won 11 games) and an outright and undefeated run through the Mountain West Conference foes to a championship.
There were thrills along the way.
The young Cougars were able to win their first road game on the strength of 5 forced turnovers against New Mexico. Including a pick-6 by Bryan Kehl.
BYU was able to put away the Andy Dalton-led Horned Frogs of TCU at LaVell Edwards Stadium. On the last TCU possession, the Cougars were able to sack Dalton twice. David Nixon picked up the first. Bryan Kehl’s sack on 4th-and-8 put the game away for the Cougars.
The 2007 Holy War was an all-timer. BYU was down by 1 to Utah, 10-9. The Cougars offense had been frustrated all game. The Cougars only scoring on 3 Mitch Payne field goals. Finally, it took 4th-and-18 to wake up the Cougars.
Of the play, Austin Collie famously said:
As amazing and fun the 2007 Holy War game was for BYU fans, that may not even be the most “Magic Happens” play of the season.
During the 2007 Las Vegas Bowl, BYU was given a chance to avenge one of their losses. UCLA defeated BYU in the 2nd game of the season at the Rose Bowl, 27-17.
BYU had a 17-16 lead with 3 seconds left in the game. The Bruins were lining up for a bowl game winning 28-yard field goal attempt. UCLA’s kicker was Kai Forbath. Forbath was a redshirt freshman who had crushed through a 52-yarder previously in the game.
Freshman DT Eathyn Manumaleuna got a fingertip on the kick. The ball slowly spiraled short of the goal posts and the Cougars picked up the win. MAGIC FREAKING HAPPENS.
Before the season, Bronco Mendenhall tried to craft a tagline of the 2007 season: Fully Invested. But after an 11-win, MWC conference championship, a bowl game victory, and a post-season ranking of 14 with that much inexperience at skill positions it was clear that Austin Collie had masterminded a better tagline. Magic Happens. It is truly the best, most accurate, and memorable way to remember the 2007 BYU football season.