Twenty-two seniors bid farewell Saturday during BYU’s final home football game of the season in a 59-13 rout of Idaho State. While their big plays throughout the game paced the Cougars to an easy win, the senior class has left an even more impressive legacy at BYU.
On BYU’s first drive, senior receiver Cody Hoffman jumped for an apparently overthrown ball from Taysom Hill and reeled it in while taking a hit for a 20-yard reception. The play was vintage Hoffman — reaching for a pass in heavy coverage and coming down securing the football.
Hoffman’s early reception was just one of 241 career receptions at BYU for the Crescent City, Calif., native. Playing for a program that has featured potent passing attacks throughout the years, Hoffman will go down statistically as the greatest receiver to ever play at BYU.
“It’s been surreal,” Hoffman said, considering the significance of senior day. “With everything I’ve overcome and accomplished in my career, it’s bittersweet.”
In typical fashion, senior All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy made sure his presence was felt by the opposing offense. When BYU’s defense gave early ground to the Bengals, Van Noy clamped down with tackles in the backfield and pressure on the quarterback.
Van Noy has been the main ingredient in a fearsome BYU defense the last three years. After Van Noy sealed his legacy with a dominating performance in the Poinsettia Bowl against San Diego State last year, there was speculation regarding Van Noy’s return for his senior season, as draft experts saw him perhaps as an early second-round selection after his junior year.
But Van Noy returned, and he’s been just as good, if not better, than last year. He’s the heart and soul of the BYU defense and, this time next year, will more than likely be playing on Sundays.
“I don’t know if he can do anything to surprise me,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said of Van Noy. “He’s one of the most productive football players I’ve ever coached or watched play.”
A 36-yard touchdown pass from Taysom Hill to senior receiver Skyler Ridley blew the game wide open early in the second quarter. A former walk-on for the Cougars, Ridley is a team captain who has worked hard for a significant role in the offense. In a mid-season contest against undefeated Houston, Ridley hauled in the game-winning touchdown in a 47-46 barn-burner.
Senior tight end Richard Wilson put BYU up 41-3 with a touchdown reception late in the first half. It was Wilson’s second touchdown in his career at BYU and just his first catch of his senior season.
“After putting in so much hard work, it’s good to see him score,” Hoffman said of Wilson. “I’m really happy for him.”
Eathyn Manumaleuna, a senior nose tackle from Anchorage, Ala., saw limited time against the Bengals but came up with a tackle for loss in the contest. Manumaleuna’s journey at BYU started in 2007. As a freshman, he sealed BYU’s Las Vegas bowl victory with a last-second blocked field goal against UCLA.
Manumaleuna reflected on his last game in Lavell Edwards Stadium.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “I’ve made great memories and great relationships here.”
With a comfortable lead in the second half, a couple of seniors who have seen limited action in their careers at BYU entered the game. Senior defensive backs Blake Morgan and Adam Hogan relieved seniors Skye PoVey and Daniel Sorensen in the BYU secondary.
Absent from the field were two critical seniors: linebacker Spencer Hadley and receiver JD Falslev. Hadley was out with a knee sprain. He has had a roller coaster of a senior year, enduring a three-game suspension by the NCAA for team violations.
Falslev, the team captain from Smithfield, Utah, broke his hand at a team activity prior to the game against Wisconsin on Nov. 9. Falslev entered the field for the game against Idaho State in jeans, with a cast on his right hand. The team is hopeful he will make a return before the end of the 2013 season.
“It was a nice way to send our seniors out,” Mendenhall said. “I’m glad we got to play so many players.”