BYU defense delivers Poinsettia Bowl win by getting offensive

Whoever coined the old adage “defense wins games,” probably didn’t have this in mind, but it nonetheless was true in the Brigham Young Cougars 23-6 Poinsettia Bowl win over the San Diego State Aztecs. Whatever else can be said of the season, it has been a great year for the BYU defense, and they capped a phenomenal year with an even more incredible finish.

First, the BYU defense managed to keep a potent SDSU offense out of the end zone all game long. In that effort, the defense was greatly assisted by All-American punter Riley Stephenson. He pinned the Aztecs deep in their own territory with punts downed at the 5, 1 (twice), 2, and 9, plus one at the 16 for a total of 6 (out of 8) being pinned inside the 20. The long field was something SDSU just couldn’t overcome, but even on a short field that defense made sure they couldn’t go anywhere.

After an SDSU interception return for a TD was called back on an illegal block below the waist, the Aztec offense set up camp at the BYU 29-yard line. Despite the great field position, they simply could not capitalize. The first play of the drive was a 7-yard rush. A holding penalty and a 4-yard loss of the two ensuing plays, followed by an incomplete pass broken up by Ezekiel Ansah resulted in a net loss of 7 yards and a punt.

The defense did more than just keep the other team out of the end zone. They put up touchdowns themselves.

By the 4th quarter, there was a total of 9 points from 3 field goals on the board, for a 6-3 SDSU lead. It looked like the BYU offense was finally going to get on the board when they took the ball from the 50 yard line and moved 46 yards down field to the SDSU 4, but James Lark’s pass on 3rd and Goal got tipped up by Cody Hoffman and into the arms of SDSU defender King Holder, who fell at the 3-yard line. So the defense – and more specifically All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy – did what the offense could not. The very next play, Van Noy rushed SDSU quarterback Adam Dingwell, forcing the fumble and then recovering it in the end zone for a TD, making it 10-6 after the PAT.

Dingwell fumbled the snap on the first play of the very next possession, which set up the only offensive TD of the night--a 14-yard run from Jamaal Williams on 1st and 10. The missed PAT left the score at 16-6.
After the two teams traded punts, the last score came from a pick-six by none other than Van Noy.  With his fumble recovery in the end zone, Van Noy officially duplicated a very rare achievement, including the scoring of a touchdown. The pick-six was icing on the cake, the one thing he hadn’t done yet in his collegiate career. It also tied an obscure NCAA record for scoring a touchdown on both a fumble and interception return in the same game. Van Noy also blocked a punt and had 8 tackles, and 1.5 sacks.

On offense, Hoffman had 10 receptions for 114 yards, while Lark came back down to earth after his impressive showing against New Mexico State, finishing the bowl game with 244 yards and 2 interceptions on 23 for 42 passing.

In the end, it is only appropriate, in a year where the defense was the lifeblood of the team, for the defense to come out and make the plays that win the game. The perfect way to end what was a great season for the defense.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Kyle Van Noy forces and recovers a fumble in the end zone for the touchdown, giving BYU the lead and the momentum to finish out the game.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kyle Van Noy – 8 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a blocked punt, forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception, 2 TDs.

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