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BYU defense goes out in style, contributing 2 touchdowns

BYU defense goes out in style, contributing 2 touchdowns

By Alex Hoeft, KSL.com Contributor | Posted - Dec. 21, 2012 at 12:18 p.m.



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BYU's 23-6 Poinsettia Bowl win over the SDSU Aztecs wasn't your typical night where the Cougars' Zion Curtain defense came out and made a ton of third down stands at the 2 yard line.

It's not that it didn't, it's just that it did so much more than that.

Defensive linebacker Kyle Van Noy had the game of his life right when it mattered — eight tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, one interception and two touchdowns. Those are both offensive and defensive stats.

Van Noy earned the title of defensive MVP of the Poinsettia Bowl, and many a fan thought he deserved the offensive title as well. But for the junior, his skill is merely thanks to his teammates.

BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy holds out the ball as he scores on a 17-yard interception return during the fourth quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in San Diego. BYU defeated San Diego State 23-6. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy holds out the ball as he scores on a 17-yard interception return during the fourth quarter of the Poinsettia Bowl NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in San Diego. BYU defeated San Diego State 23-6. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

"I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing without the team," Van Noy said. "And stats-wise, our defense played lights out tonight, causing turnovers — turnovers were huge for us. When we got that first turnover, I think that changed the momentum of the game. All of our guys played hard, and we wanted to win out for our seniors, and we were just happy to do it."

In the words of the Aztecs, they just got beat, plain and simple.

"(Van Noy) is a great player," said SDSU offensive lineman Nik Emberenate. "He's agile, and if you give him anything, he's going to beat you. Plain and simple, I got beat."

BYU's comeback surge was SDSU's downfall. With Van Noy's fumble recovery and touchdown with 12 and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, closely shadowed by Jamaal Williams with a 14-yard run for a touchdown 17 seconds later and then followed by Van Noy's pick-six a few minutes later, all the Aztecs could do was crumple.

And crumple they did. In fact, SDSU's fourth quarter drive chart went like so: fumble, fumble, punt, interception, interception, turnover on downs.

"We got progressively more aggressive as we extended a lead, and that then forced San Diego to be more one-dimensional," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "And any time someone becomes one dimensional, we can pressure."

BYU linebacker Ezekiel Ansah intercepts a tipped pass during the first half of the Poinsettia Bowl NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
BYU linebacker Ezekiel Ansah intercepts a tipped pass during the first half of the Poinsettia Bowl NCAA college football game against San Diego State, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

For senior Brandon Ogletree, as well as the other seniors, winning the Poinsettia game was the perfect way to end the season, especially having what's been called the best defense in BYU football history.

"(It's) really gratifying to play against them the way we did," Ogletree said. "We prided ourselves all year in stopping the run, and I think we did a pretty good job of that. We love playing physical football and so do they, and we knew it was going to be a good challenge, and I think we won that challenge. I think we did a really good job."

And for Van Noy, whose possibility of leaving BYU early to enter the NFL draft is at its peak, his spotlight is big enough to encompass his defensive teammates.

"I wouldn't make those plays if all 11 guys weren't doing what they were doing. The ball just happened to land in my lap," Van Noy said. "I think we finished tonight on all three sides of the ball with a never-give-up attitude."

On an offensive note, the 2012 offense didn't end with a cherry on top — the season-long quarterback conundrum was summarized pretty well against SDSU, with once upon a time third-stringer James Lark throwing for 244 yards, with two interceptions, and the unforgettable Riley Nelson coming in for one drive to attempt two passes, one incomplete and one interception.

But Mendenhall's love for Nelson remains unwavering, and he stands by his decision to put the quarterback in with five minutes left in the second quarter.

"I thought we were a little bit sluggish and flattening out just after the first three series or so, and I trust Riley — I love him, and he's a great leader for us," Mendenhall said. "I wanted to give him every opportunity to have a fantastic finish to his senior season, and he'd earned the chance to play, and I was hoping to play him more. I'm happy for James (Lark), but also I love Riley (Nelson) and really appreciate all the hard work and who he is, and I respect him as much or more than anyone I've ever coached."

On an emotional note, the acceptance of the completion of many players' last game seemed to settle on the team as it received the Poinsettia Bowl trophy, and that emotion did not go unmentioned in the post-game interviews.

Specifically mentioned was Ogletree.

"At the end of the day, he's my brother and he's a good role model, and I look up to him as a father," Van Noy said of his teammate.

"His work and his leadership every single day is really the heart and the soul of the defensive group, so I'm not sure there'll be anyone I miss more, and the impact that he's had for us defensively has been remarkable."

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Alex Hoeft

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