BYU is coming off of an important 14-13 win over Ole Miss, and they have linebacker Kyle Van Noy to thank for sealing the deal.
The sophomore from Nevada, with 5:02 left in the game, forced and then recovered a fumble for a touchdown to give BYU their first and only lead. The Cougars began the fourth quarter in a 13-0 deficit. Van Noy’s three-yard touchdown was the second defensive touchdown of his young career.
“I just got lucky, that’s all it was,” Van Noy said, after becoming the first player from BYU since 1985 to score two defensive touchdowns, having scored one last year against Colorado State. “I tried to make something happen.”
He ended the day with four tackles, including a tackle for loss, to go with his fumble forced and recovered. He was named the FBS Independent defensive player of the week on Monday. Van Noy was proud of the team’s victory, but said being behind most of the game made the team appreciate the win even more.
“There’s the sense of relief that I’m glad we won, but there’s a lot we can improve,” he said.
When Van Noy stripped Ole Miss’ quarterback Zack Stoudt and scored, the Cougars were uplifted as a team. And given that the offense failed to score until the final quarter, the defensive play was much needed. He said that the coaches, along with his teammates, understood the importance of regaining momentum at halftime.
“When we came out on defense on the first drive, and got that three-and-out and stopped them on that hard third-and-inches, it really gave a good momentum shift back to us,” Van Noy said.
The defense only allowed Ole Miss to get 64 yards running and 208 yards total. Only two Rebel field goals were allowed.
“When you are holding an offense to only six points, there is a little bit of accomplishment,” Van Noy said. “Big plays are in every game. Luckily we got one, recovered it and scored. That ended up being a big plus for us.”
An interception and a 96-yard touchdown return by safety Charles Sawyer was the source of Ole Miss’ other seven points. BYU’s defense obviously did their job on Saturday.
“I love defensive games when we don’t allow the opponent to score a touchdown,” said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
But will they be ready for Texas? Van Noy said the team is happy to play Texas and they are ready to face the Longhorns and 100,000 fans at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
“But we just fought back and fought back. That’s what we do at practice every day. We work hard,” Van Noy said. “But we still have a lot to fix, and we will do that before we get to Texas.”
Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert said the Longhorn offense is looking forward to the challenge of BYU’s defense and he understands that they will have their hands full with talented players such as linebackers Jordan Pendelton and Oona Kaveinga and defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaluena.
“We’re going to have to be very sharp, go into it with a good plan,” Gilbert said. “I think everyone knows that they’re going to be a very good defense who’s going to be very physical.”
Co-offensive Coordinator Bryan Harsin will use his experience playing BYU while coaching at Boise State to aid the Longhorns against the Cougar’s physical, powerful defense.
“They do a good job in coverage of mixing up where they’re helping with safeties, and they make it difficult from that standpoint,” Harsin said. “And that D-line, because of that, they’re expecting those guys to get to you and expecting those backers to get to you.”
He also warned that when a team plays BYU’s defense, they need to play all four quarters. Van Noy and the Cougars proved that on Saturday, and his team will look to assert themselves again this Saturday on the road.