BYU vs San Diego State: Poinsettia Bowl 5 Game Observations

In a fourth quarter blockbuster performance, the Brigham Young Cougars extend their series dominance over San Diego State to six games straight.  Without a single touchdown until the fourth quarter, both teams had difficulty with field position and making things happen in the red zone. But the BYU defense led by a stellar Kyle Van Noy paved the way for James Lark and the offense to get the ball moving. Clutch punting by Riley Stephenson put the Aztecs within the 3-yard line four times in the game.

Here are my five game observations from the Poinsettia Bowl Thursday night:

1. Is Riley Nelson at 100% health?

The short answer is no. Had he been 100%, then he would have started.

Bronco Mendenhall opted to select senior James Lark to start in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl after his fantastic showcase in his game against New Mexico State in November. BYU’s first drive of the game yielded a false start, a potential interception dropped by the Aztecs and nothing else.

Lark had trouble getting the offense going at all in the first half and Riley Nelson even came in for a series of downs. Nelson had BYU’s longest rushing gain of 13 yards, but then threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Lady luck was on BYU’s side as a penalty flag was thrown against the Aztecs for illegal blocking negating the touchdown. In the second half, Lark was able to get the offense moving more thanks to some big plays by the defense.

2. Can Adam Muema break through?

As he has all season, the San Diego State running back came flying out of the gates and pushed through BYU’s defensive line on the first play of the game for a five yard gain. On 26 attempts Muema logged 103 rushing yards alone and tagged on another 34 receiving yards in one big play.

Muema’s agility and lighting footwork caught the sputtering BYU defense stumbling even after he broke through the line in his rushing plays. His physicality resulted in plenty of yards after contact as he broke through many tackles and juked many more. The BYU defense tightened up greatly, however, in the second half and gave Muema and his QB Adam Dingwell a hard time even passing the line of scrimmage. This leads us to my third game observation.

3. Ziggy Ansah, Kyle Van Noy and BYU’s #3 defense

Though BYU’s defense wasn’t up to what became its everyday standard early in the game, the BYU defense that has caught the attention of the entire nation really lit up the field down the stretch.

Kyle Van Noy was without a doubt the player of the game with five tackles on his own and another three accomplished with help. He also had 1.5 sacks, an interception he took 17-yards for a touchdown and a forced fumble inside the end zone which he recovered for a touchdown.

Alani Fua and Ezekiel Ansah both snagged an interception as well while BYU’s defense drew 5 turnovers out of the Aztecs, four of which came in the fourth quarter. The intensity of BYU’s defense in the fourth quarter not only yielded two touchdowns but also helped give Lark and the offense a little more breathing room to work with.  BYU’s defense comes through again.

4. A hat trick of hat tricks

Though Cody Hoffman wasn’t able to notch any touchdowns in the third bowl game of his career, he still get in a decent rhythm with James Lark for a good portion of the game. With 114 yards on the game in 10 receptions, Hoffman averaged over 11 yards per catch. Though Lark had success going to Hoffman Thursday, they couldn’t make it happen in the blue zone. One drive in particular left BYU within the five-yard line where Lark hit Hoffman in the hands on two separate plays, but the junior receiver couldn’t reel them in for a touchdown.

Hoffman has been a valuable asset for the Cougars this year, finishing with 1,248 yards on the season and earning him a place in the 1000-yard club. Hoffman has progressed greatly each season he has played with 527 and 943 yards in his freshman and sophomore years respectively in 2010 and 2011.

5. Another chapter in BYU bowl lore!

Let’s just be honest. The first half of the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl was hinting at a game that would not contribute much to BYU’s historic bowl lore. By the end of the third quarter it was clear that the Cougars had yet to rise and fight. However, in the fourth quarter they lit up the gridiron. 

By the fourth quarter, BYU had returned to true form and in dramatic fashion shifted the momentum in their favor for the remainder of the game. What is better than fourth quarter comebacks? This game and BYU’s legendary 2012 defense will definitely be remembered in BYU bowl tradition.

The play of Kyle Van Noy, Riley Stephenson, Daniel Sorensen, and Brandon Ogletree will be remembered for years to come.

And thus another season comes to a close for our Brigham Young Cougars football team. It will be great to see what kind of team the 2013 season will yield and if BYU can measure up to its schedule of increased difficulty.

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