Previously maligned cornerback Justin Robinson jumped an out pattern against Utah State picking off the pass and returning it for a touchdown. This play in my mind highlighted what was one of the most improved aspects of the Cougar team this season. The Cougars' pass coverage went from a blatant weakness to a strength.
Justin Robinson and Ben Criddle formed BYU's best cornerback tandem since 1996. Teams struggled going downfield all season long. Criddle and Robinson both proved very adept at making plays throughout the season. Robinson capped off the season nicely picking off two passes in the Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon.
Reed went up against double-coverage and used all his size and athleticism to haul in one of the best catches of the year. It was the pass that put BYU up by 14 early in the third quarter against the then conference favorite TCU Horned Frogs. BYU never looked back in that game after that touchdown.
#8-Vakapuna's gallop against Tulsa
The "Fui" chants were perhaps born after the run Fui Vakapuna had against Tulsa in which every weapon in Vakapuna's arsenal was on full display. Vakapuna cut it against the grain and broke eight different tackles on his way to a 30+ yard gallop that left fans agape in the stands about the capabilities of this running back.
#7-Jacobson's touchdown catch against New Mexico
True freshman McKay Jacobson performed on-the-the-field-robbery against an unexpecting Lobo cornerback in this game. The DB had an interception lined up in the end zone, but Jacobson went high over him and ripped the ball out of his hands to turn the takeaway into a touchdown.
Jacobson showed great promise throughout his true freshman season proving to be very much the playmaker that won him wide receiver of the year honors in the Texas prep ranks.
#6-The General stuffing multiple third and fourth a short attempts by Wyoming
Cameron Jensen played as well as any Cougar middle linebacker ever to don the blue and white. What stood out to me was his play against Wyoming where he accounted for multiple stuffs in the backfield against the Cowboys during critical situations.
It is hard to imagine a player who will be missed as much as Jensen next season. On and off the field he was exactly what coaches want a middle linebacker to be. Jensen was the "General" in every sense of the word and will not be easily replaced.
#5-Curtis Brown's touchdown catch against Tulsa
The most complete running back in BYU history and the all-time leading rusher had what could be his most impressive play in a very impressive career against Tulsa. Brown took a simple flare pass and turned it into a 62-yard touchdown grab in which he broke multiple tackle attempts and should have been brought down on three different occasions during the run.
Like Jensen, Brown will not be easily replaced next season. As mentioned, I believe Brown to be the most complete running back ever to put on a BYU football uniform. He did the big things running and catching the ball extremely well, but it was the little things Brown did that set him apart. Little things like picking up blitzes and providing lead blocks for other backs are where Brown excelled along with all other facets of his game.
#4-Vakapuna's touchdown run against Colorado State
Just about every player on the field quit on the play as Fui Vakapuna fell on the pile without touching the ground. Vakapuna then got up and into the end zone from four yards out on one of the more aggressive and alert plays by a running back you will ever se. Vakapuna is a back who will get every inch he can on every play. He does not know the meaning of the word "quit" as evidenced by this run.
#3-Kick returns against Wyoming
Nathan Miekle took the opening kickoff against Wyoming all the way to the one yard line. Replays showed that it should have been called a touchdown, but with the return Meikle set the tone in what I considered BYU's most dominating and complete performance of the season in a 55-7 route of Wyoming.
Later in the game McKay Jacobson took a punt and returned it for 77 yards and the score. Jacobson displayed balance, smarts, strength, but most of all speed to split gaps not often split by Cougar kick returners.
BYU's return and coverage units were solid game-in and game-out in 2006. Seldom was the occasion where BYU gained an advantage returning and defending kicks prior to 2006, but that is exactly what they did with every game this past season. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall dedicated more time than any prior coach to special teams work and it payed off.
#2-Nixon's forced fumble against TCU
Nobody knew just what kind of team BYU was and how good they would be prior to the TCU game. Most knew that BYU's season would end like it did following the 31-17 win over the defending conference champs. The play that changed the game was David Nixon sacking and forcing a fumble by TCU quarterback Jeff Ballard when the Horned Frogs were looking to go up for an early 7-3 lead.
Nixon stormed around the end, hitting Ballard from the blindside and changing the game and perhaps the entire Cougar season. The Cougar linebackers proved dominant throughout the season, making play after play against opposing offenses. Of all the plays made by the Cougar linebackers, this one stands out as the most significant.
#1-Harline's touchdown catch against Utah
This was obviously a gimme as the top play of the season. It is hard to imagine what tone the memories of this past season, including BYU's performance in the Las Vegas Bowl, would have taken had Beck not completed this pass to Harline as time expired against Utah.
This play has been rehashed, diagramed, and remembered over and over again, but it is worth every bit of thought allotted to it. It was without question the defining play of Beck's career and will go down as one of the top plays in BYU football history, which is already rich with great plays.
Beck and Harline made play after play all year long. Four or five of Harline's touchdown catches were considered for the list as he made some of the most spectacular catches in the end zone all season long. Beck simply solidified his spot with the likes of Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Jim McMahon and the rest with this play capping off a great season and an eventual dominating bowl victory over the Oregon Ducks.