Broadcasters and writers like to use the phrase made a lot of money tonight, referencing a standout performance that commands pro attention. The truth is, Kyle Van Noy’s NFL riches were made well before he led BYU to a 23-6 victory over San Diego State in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl. His 6-foot-3, nearly 240-pound frame and explosive athleticism are qualities that make scouts salivate.
No, Van Noy didn’t up his NFL stock by extending BYU’s bowl game win streak to four with a pair of touchdowns — one on a forced fumble and recovery, the second on an interception return. But he did get a national platform to show just how dominant he is, and why he was among the country’s top linebackers throughout this, and last season.
Van Noy may or may not enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Should he choose to pursue the professional dream, he could not leave on a more fitting note. Van Noy scored a defensive bingo, per BYUTV sideline reporter Robbie Bullough:
Amazing RT @robbiebullough 2nd yr KVN has 1 of everything: tackle, TFL, sack, INT, forced fumble, fumble rec, PBU, QB hurry, blocked kick
— Vanquish The Foe (@VanquishTheFoe) December 21, 2012
Amazing, indeed. Football is the ultimate team sport, but Van Noy came about as close to singlehandedly winning a game as an individual can. San Diego State tried every blocking scheme it could to contain his blitzes off the edges, but instead got a crash course in what yielded 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in the regular season. On Thursday, he added another 1.5 and 3.5 to the final ledger.
His performance emphasized what any observer of this BYU team already knew. The Poinsettia Bowl also amplified questions about Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s future direction for the program.
That may seem an odd assertion for a head coach whose team just won its fourth straight bowl, and a defensive coordinator who crafted a game plan that held an opponent out of the end zone for the sixth time on the season. Brandon Ogletree, Ezekiel Ansah, Preston Hadley, along with Van Noy, combined to hold SDSU to 265 yards of total offense. The Cougar defense also forced five turnovers.
Since assuming defensive duties midway through the 2010 season, Mendenhall transformed the Cougar defense into one of the most uniquely effective in all of college football. However, the offensive anemia that relegated a top 10 defensive team to an 8-5 final record was all-too prevalent in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Van Noy’s otherworldly performance was necessary. His two touchdowns and a third turnover forced within earshot of the end zone produced 20 fourth quarter points. To that point, the Cougars had just three.
Quarterback James Lark went 23-42 — not a terrible mark, but he was intercepted twice without a score. Riley Nelson threw two passes, and one was a pick. Meanwhile, the Cougar ball carriers combined for all of 52 yards.
One thousand-plus-yard receiver Cody Hoffman stood out, per the usual. He caught 10 balls for 114 yards. Otherwise, nothing resembling the LaVell Edwards teams that won a national championship and produced a Heisman winner a generation ago could be gleaned from the Cougar offense.
That’s the level to which BYU wants to return. The move to independence was made, in part, to give the Cougars more access to top quality competition and thus, more national attention. The defense is ready for prime time, boasting a roster laden with NFL talent. The offense needs major refinement to catch up. It’s a major undertaking for Brandon Doman, who finished his first season as Cougar offensive coordinator with a whimper. It’s also the step separating the Cougars from Poinsettia Bowls, and Fiesta Bowls.