Brigham Young Cougars Mid-Season Awards

With the Brigham Young Cougars halfway through the 2011 football schedule, BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL handed out grades yesterday for the team. The mid-season review continues today by handing out 10 awards for the play thus far.

Each award has three nominees (except Team MVP). The first five awards are for an individual player. To keep things interesting, once a player won one of these awards he was removed from consideration of the others.

Team MVP
Nominees: Cody Hoffman, Kyle Van Noy

Winner: Kyle Van Noy, 28 tackles, 2 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack, 2 int., 3 pass breakups, 2 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Van Noy has been an animal on defense. He routinely makes big plays at critical junctures in the game. His athleticism is second to none on the team. Literally, Van Noy has done it all. He has registered at least one play in every defensive statistical category.

With his fumble return for a touchdown against Ole Miss, he became the first BYU defensive player ever to score 2 defensive touchdowns. He also won that game. When the game was on the line against UCF, Van Noy had two big plays: a pass breakup and a sack. Both of his interceptions ended opponents drives as they approached scoring territory.

Offensive Player of the Year
Nominees: Ross Apo, Cody Hoffman, Riley Nelson

Winner: Riley Nelson, 27-45 (60%), 401 yards, 5 TD, 2 Int., 162.6 pass efficiency / 25 rushes, 135 yards (5.4 ave.)

Nelson, sort of, wins by default. He has only played significant minutes in the last game and a half, but the rest of the offense has been so anemic that Nelson stands out. If he can maintain that pass efficiency rating (definitely not an easy task), then he would have the seventh highest single season rating for a BYU quarterback. Nelson is also the fourth leading rusher on the team, and trails the leading rusher by less than 100 yards. His 5.4 yards per carry average is, by far, the best on the team.

Defensive Player of the Year
Nominees: Uona Kaveinga, Brandon Ogletree, Daniel Sorensen

Winner: Uona Kaveinga, 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, 1 QB hurry, 3 forced fumbles

Ogletree leads the team in tackles with 37, even though he missed one game. However, Kaveinga had a well rounded resume. Bronco Mendenhall has mentioned that Kaveinga is quiet Kaveinga is off the field. He has quietly built his resume on the field. He hasn’t really had one monster game, rather he has done it with consistent, solid play. It also helps that he has shared the spotlight with other players on three of his biggest plays—the forced fumbles.

Newcomer of the Year
Nominees: Ross Apo, Hebron Fangupo, Preston Hadley, Spencer Hadley, Joe Sampson

Winner: Hebron Fangupo, 18 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 pass breakups, 3 QB hurries

Fangupo has been a key player at defensive end filling in for the losses of Matt Putnam and Thomas Bryson. Fangupo has been more than a big body filling up space. He leads the team in tackles-for-loss and quarterback hurries. The USC transfer is nimble on his feet and can really move for his size.

Most Improved Player
Nominees: Austin Holt, Richard Wilson, Travis Uale

Winner: Travis Uale, 25 tackles, 2 int., 2 pass breakups

Uale has increased his production dramatically from last year. He is on pace for 50 tackles, which would surpass his 2010 total of 42 by 19%. More importantly, Uale didn’t have a single interception or pass breakup last year. He already has two of both.

Play of the Year
Nominees: Kyle Van Noy fumble return for TD (Ole Miss), Cody Hoffman kickoff return for a TD (UCF), Riley Nelson to Marcus Mathews TD (Utah State)

Winner: Riley Nelson to Marcus Mathews TD (Utah State)

While Hoffman’s kickoff return for a touchdown was the first at BYU since October 1998, its impact on the game was not as significant as the other two. Van Noy’s forced fumble and subsequent recovery and touchdown did provide the winning points for that game, but it didn’t come at a do-or-die situation.

With just 15 seconds left in the game, BYU trailed Utah State 24-20, and the ball sat 13 yards away from the end zone. Nelson dropped back to pass. His intended receiver was J.J. Di Luigi. The Utah State defender climbed up Di Luigi’s back and tipped the pass. Mathews was running a crossing route five yards deep in the end zone. After the tip, all Mathews had to do was keep running so the ball would land perfectly in his hands.

Best Offensive Series
Nominees: 8 play 72-yard TD drive (4:16) at Ole Miss, 12 play 97-yard TD drive (5:04) at Texas, 9 play 96-yard TD drive (2:25) vs. Utah State,

Winner: 9 play 96-yard TD drive (2:25) vs. Utah State

The BYU defense forced Utah State to punt the ball back with just under three minutes to play in the game. The punt was hard to field, and took an Aggie bounce from the 30-yard line all the way to the four. There was now 2:36 to play. With one timeout, BYU needed to drive 96 yards to win the game.

On the first play, Riley Nelson was tackled for a two-yard loss. It took two more plays just to get the 12 yards needed for the first down. The clock was down to 1:15. After three more plays, BYU had advanced the ball just 30 of the 96 yards. With less than one minute to play, BYU needed something big. The Cougars got it with a 40-yard bomb to McKay Jacobson on the next play. Nelson ran the ball down to the 13 on the next play to set up the winning touchdown to Marcus Mathews.

Best Defensive Series
Nominees: Score game winning TD off of fumble at Ole Miss, Stop UCF’s last drive as time expires, Keep game within reach by stopping Utah State’s fake field goal.

Winner: Score game winning TD off of fumble at Ole Miss. 8 plays, -9 yards, 4:43

This drive started at the Ole Miss 12-yard line with 9:52 to play in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss had a 13-7 lead. The Rebels picked up two first downs and had moved the ball to their own 38-yard line. A 10-yard holding penalty on first down moved the ball back to the 28-yard line. On 2nd-and-17, Ole Miss was called for an illegal block. That moved the ball to the 21-yard line. An incomplete pass set up 3rd-and-27.

Bronco Mendenhall decided to bring the heat. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy flew into the backfield on a blitz. The Ole Miss quarterback was stunned. Before he could do anything, Van Noy was on top of him. The ball was knocked loss in the process. Van Noy jumped up off the QB and chased down the ball. He picked it up and the three-yard line and rolled into the end zone for a touchdown. The score put BYU up 14-13 with 5:09 to play.

Biggest Surprise
Nominees: Michael Alisa becomes the number one running back, Riley Nelson becomes starting quarterback, Daniel Sorensen plays at high level fresh off a mission

Winner: Michael Alisa becomes the number one running back.

Sorensen isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, player to come back from his mission, to win a starting spot, and to make an impact from day one. Nelson starting over Heaps because Heaps was ineffective is very surprising, and 99.9% of Cougar fans would have called you crazy if you told them in August that this would be the case. However, Alisa moving up the depth chart the way he has was not foreseen by ANYONE.

Alisa moved to fullback during the spring due to the log jam at linebacker, which didn’t exist before his mission. Depth at fullback was very thin. Running back was just as deep as linebacker, so much so that Mike Hague had switched to defensive back.

Besides the depth at running back, all three backs were proven players. They had all rushed for over 500 yards in 2010. Joshua Quezada was expected to become the next great running back at BYU this year.

Forget calling you crazy, you would be taken straight to the asylum if you said in August that none of the 2010 backs would produce and Alisa would supplant them as the number one back.

Biggest Disappointment
Nominees: Sophomore slumps (Jake Heaps and Joshua Quezada), Terrible Turnovers (no less than X in each game), Half game hex (One half good, one half bad in each game)

Winner: Sophomore Slumps

The sophomore slumps, particularly Jake Heaps and Joshua Quezada, top the list because they are also a key part of the other two disappointments. Heaps and Quezada were peaking at the end of last year. Heaps was the MVP of the New Mexico Bowl and Quezada topped 100 yards rushing that day.

Quezada, presumably, has been slowed down by an ankle injury suffered during the summer. In game one, he saw limited reps due to impact induced migraines. Either way, having played in all six games, he should have produced more than 150 yards of total offense (142 rush, 8 receiving). That is an average of 25 yards per outing. It was expected he would have three or four runs of 25 yards at the half way mark.

Heaps hasn’t been able to play a complete game to save his life, let alone the starting QB job. He played well for at least a half in the first three games. After Ross Apo went out with a concussion early in game four, Heaps couldn’t even have a good half.

Heaps has also been plagued with very, very, very costly turnovers. He hasn’t been able to throw just an interception or just fumble the ball. Nearly all of his turnovers have resulted in points for the other team, either by the defense scoring a touchdown, or by turning the ball over deep in BYU territory.

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