Heaps connected with Apo for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:52 to play; the gap was closed to 13-7. The scoring pass completed an 8-play, 72-yard drive that saw Heaps complete all five of his throws for 49 yards.
On the ensuing possession, Ole Miss faced a 3rd and 27 at their own 21 yard line. Bronco Mendenhall called for Van Noy to blitz. The sophomore linebacker not only got pressure, he forced a fumble and found a way to recover the ball and run the final three yards into the end zone. That gave BYU a one-point lead with 5:09 to play.
The final score doesn’t reflect it, but BYU controlled the game from the beginning. The BYU offense had some success moving the ball and chewed up the clock in the first quarter. On three possessions, the Cougar offense used 12:27 of game time. BYU was even better on defense. They took the ball back from Ole Miss after two plays on the Rebels’ first drive when Daniel Sorensen recovered a fumble caused by Uona Kaveinga. The D only surrendered 93 yards in the entire first half.
Ole Miss was winning the special teams battle in the first half. A 43-yard punt return with 2:54 left in the half gave Ole Miss enough of a boost to go up 3-0 at intermission on a 20-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, the youthfulness of BYU’s offense became painfully apparent. Jordan Pendleton made a big play on 3rd and inches to stop Ole Miss on the first drive of the second half. Heaps then drove BYU 66 yards downfield. Thinking he had a touchdown, Heaps fired for the end zone. The Ole Miss safety broke on the ball and intercepted it and ran 96-yards for a touchdown the other way.
Immediately, BYU got the ball back and continued to drive. Ten plays and 66 yards later, BYU lined up for a field goal. The kick was wide right. It was still a 10-0 game.
The character of the BYU team was being tested. For nearly three quarters they had outplayed Ole Miss. The offense could clearly move the ball, but they were having trouble finishing drives. The defense had its own frustrations. Despite allowing just 102 yards in over 2 ½ quarters of play, they were behind on the score board. Now, they were being counted on again to stop the Rebels.
Ole Miss completed a 21-yard pass on first down. Taking advantage of the BYU defense’s depressed state, Ole Miss moved into scoring territory. The defense was able to rise up and limit the Rebels to a field goal.
Inspired by the defense, Heaps and company were finally able to finish a drive. Which, in turn, inspired the special teams. BYU pinned Ole Miss back at its own 12-yard line on the kickoff.
The Rebels had controlled their rebellious side up to this point. With 7:37 to play, however, they suffered their first penalty: a 10-yard holding call. That was quickly followed by a second 10-yard penalty for an illegal block. The penalties were costly. They are what set up the 3rd and 27 conditions that Van Noy and BYU capitalized on. Ole Miss had two other penalties before the end of the game. Both were devastating.
After Ole Miss used its last time out with 3:16 to play, the defense was called for an illegal horse collar tackle that gave BYU an automatic first down. BYU was unable to completely run out the clock, and Ole Miss had one last chance. A delay of game penalty on 3rd and 1 crippled the Rebels as they tried to move into field goal range.
Bronco Mendenhall is now 5-2 in season opening games, and 2-1 in openers away from LaVell Edwards Stadium.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Kyle Van Noy blitzing on 3rd and 27, forcing a fumble, recovering that fumble and returning that fumble for the game winning touchdown.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kyle Van Noy, LB, 4 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 touchdown. Van Noy was one of the leaders on the tough Cougar defense.
Things to watch for:
- Big XII Audition? Hopefully there will be a resolve to the Big XII issue sometime in the coming week. Hard to say how Big XII officials would react to this game, if it mattered in any possible negotiations. It has to help that BYU won, and that the defense dominated. It wasn’t a resounding, statement making win.
- Margin of Victory and Expectations. The magin of victory was one point. It should have been a lot more. The offense is to blame. It is behind the expectations. The game reminded me a lot of the 2006 season opener. The defense played well enough for a win, but the offense was rusty, and BYU eventually lost a very close game. As you might recall, the 2006 offense became one of the best BYU offenses in the last 20 years by the end of the season. All hope is not lost, but the offense is still young and we will suffer some growing pains yet.
- Reynolds Watch. Offensive tackle Matt Reynolds played a good game. Heaps was only sacked once. Heaps often had plenty of time to throw. The ground game was successful, by BYU standards, for a season opener with 91 yards. Reynolds was matched up against Kentrell Lockett and he only logged two tackles on the day. The only time that it looked like Reynolds really got beat was on the 4th and 1 at the end when BYU needed to convert to avoid giving the ball back to Ole Miss. The Rebel end was able to penetrate and move laterally down the line to impact the play. BYU did not get the first down.
- Newcomers. Uona Kavainga had a successful debut. He was second on the team with 5 tackles and a forced fumble. Ross Apo didn’t put up huge numbers, but he was the team’s leading receiver with 46 yards and scored the only offensive touchdown for BYU. It is hard to tell if Doman’s play calling needed to be better, or if the offense (Heaps) needed to execute better. I didn’t see as much power running as I would have liked. I thought that was the weak part of the Ole Miss defense. It appeared that most of the time BYU did have good gains when they did run between the guards.
- J.J. Di Luigi. His rushing numbers were respectable. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry for 56 yards, both figures were better than any of the Ole Miss running backs. Di Luigi had a big 16-yard run on the touchdown drive. He was also valuable out of the back field with five receptions, of which four were for first downs.
Date: September 10, 2011
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