It came down to a lot of pride. That affected us a lot, seeing that last week and knowing that we needed to play better against a good rushing team. —BYU safety Daniel Sorensen
ATLANTA — Straining his eyes, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy tried to read the stat sheet in front of him.
As he fielded questions from reporters after the Cougars' dominating 41-17 win over Georgia Tech Saturday, Van Noy explained that he wasn't wearing his glasses, so it was difficult to read the numbers.
But at least one number jumped off the page. Van Noy smiled broadly when he saw that BYU had held the Yellow Jackets to just 117 rushing yards, about 222 below their average.
Many observers probably couldn't believe their eyes when they saw what the Cougar defense did against Georgia Tech, especially after BYU surrendered 270 yards on the ground to Notre Dame seven days earlier.
"That was the biggest thing we focused on since Notre Dame kind of slashed us the week before," said Van Noy, who also blocked a punt. "We did a wonderful job. We had a great game plan. We executed as well as we could today."
The Yellow Jackets came into the game No. 3 in the nation in rushing, averaging 339 yards per game on the ground. They were rolling up more than 500 yards of total offense per game. They ended up with a mere 157 yards of total offense.
"It came down to a lot of pride," said safety Daniel Sorensen. "That affected us a lot, seeing that last week and knowing that we needed to play better against a good rushing team. That was our focus."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall said his team put in a lot of hours during the week to prepare for Georgia Tech's triple-option attack.
"I was really encouraged, starting on Monday, with the way our team's mindset was. I could tell in our team meeting that they were really determined. We asked a lot of them. It was a very demanding week in terms of practice. We did extra in terms of meetings and preparation to give them the very best chance to win this game. They wanted that. They were very anxious to play at a higher level and believed they could."
The Cougar defense allowed only three points to Georgia Tech, which was averaging 37 points a game.
"We had a blast out there," said Sorensen, who recorded a second-half interception that he nearly returned for a touchdown. "That was one of the funnest games I've played in. We prepared a lot for this team and we executed well. We love when teams try to run the ball."
Amazingly, Georgia Tech was 0-for-10 on third down conversions, ran just 47 plays and had the ball for only 21:01.
"We were expecting to play 90 plays," said Sorensen, noting that the Yellow Jackets ran 55 plays in first half last week against Boston College. "We were expecting to spend a long time on the field as a defense. We were happy with the time of possession that our offense had. They gave the defense the opportunity to be fresh out there."
Georgia Tech crossed into BYU territory only three times. The only points the Yellow Jacket offense generated — a 20-yard field goal in the third quarter — were the result of a 70-yard drive in the second half, and 45 of those yards came as the result of Cougar personal-foul penalties.
Van Noy credited defensive linemen Ziggy Ansah and Romney Fuga for stopping the run up front. Ansah finished with a team-high eight tackles and recorded a sack while Fuga added five stops.
Overall, Mendenhall was thrilled with his team's defensive performance.
"We worked overtime because of the 300-plus yards rushing and 500 total yards and 37 points-a-game (that Georgia Tech was averaging)," Mendenhall said. "Georgia Tech has had our respect in terms of how well they move the ball. I give our players credit for the extra time and energy they spent to really be assignment-sound, and our assistant coaches. And they really performed well. I'm not sure I've ever been more proud of a defensive group."