With a little over 5 minutes left in the opening game of the 2011 season against Ole Miss, the Cougars were trailing 13-7. Ole Miss had the ball on their own 21-yard line. The quarterback took the snap as BYU applied quick pressure — fumble. As BYU recovered it in the end zone, they’d succeeded. Touchdown, BYU.
Before this play, independence seemed too unfamiliar. BYU had travelled to uncharted territory, leaving the comfort of a conference.
When the early American colonies decided to pull away from British rule they weren’t sure they’d succeed. The confidence of General George Washington led them to success. BYU has similar leaders.
Kyle Van Noy may not be wearing a three-pointed hat, but he is very much a field lieutenant in General (coach) Mendenhall’s army.
“He’s a good leader,” outside linebacker coach Kelly Poppinga said. “One of his roles right now is he does a really good job helping me in the classroom, helping the young guys learn the scheme and helping them understand how to play the game with effort, with passion, with the emotion that he plays with in the game.”
Poppinga said Van Noy’s competitive drive sets a tone for the defense.
“(He’s) very intense, but yet quiet,” Poppinga said. “(He) knows and understands the game of football very well. (He’s) very instinctive and passionate for the game.”
Van Noy’s instincts have proved to be successful. He was the only Division I player to record a stat in every major defensive statistic: tackle, tackle for loss, sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, quarterback hurry, pass breakup, blocked kick and defensive touchdown. In 2011 he led the team in sacks, 7.0, and tackles for loss, 15.0.
Van Noy’s style of play may look familiar. He models his game after other field generals.
“I try to take the play-making skills of Ed Reed, the grittiness of Troy Polamalu, the tenacity that Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis and Von Miller bring, and just a little bit of everything,” Van Noy said.
Although Van Noy is ruthless on the field, he is not classless. During the game against Idaho State, Van Noy made a hit on the punter. This play fired up the ISU coach. Van Noy apologized for his play and explained he did not want to come across as a dirty player.
The junior Van Noy was recently named to the Lombardi Award watch list, which is given to the best linebacker or lineman. He was also named to the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy which is given to the best defensive player.
“I’m very grateful,” Van Noy said. “I’m blessed to be on it. I have to prove that I’m worthy of being on that list.”
While Van Noy is receiving some preseason recognition, the Cougar team as a whole is not. The USA Today coaches preseason poll ranked BYU at number 36.
“That’s it?” Van Noy said in response to the poll. “That’s fine. (We) just gotta prove the world wrong. That’s about it. That’s all I can say to that.”
That attitude should prove to drive Van Noy and his fellow Cougars.
“This season’s going to be different because both sides of the ball are going to be playing harder than they did last year,” Van Noy said. “We’re going to be faster, stronger and bigger.”
Some critics think conference independence is risky, but with a defensive leader like Van Noy, the Cougars can unite around the standard and achieve victory.