Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the Scott Rappleye's book "Kyle Van Noy: The Game Changer."
San Diego, California, has been like a second home for BYU football. Many historic moments have happened there. Some have come while playing the San Diego State Aztecs when BYU was a member of the Western Athletic Conference and Mountain West Conference. LaVell Edwards earned career victory No. 100 in San Diego. Led by Ty Detmer's then school record 599 yards passing, BYU rallied from a 28-point second half deficit to tie San Diego State 52-52 — an NCAA record for highest scoring tie. The longest run in BYU history — 95 yards — happened on San Diego soil.
Other historic moments have come during bowl games. San Diego is the site of the Holiday Bowl. BYU played in the first seven Holiday Bowl games and 11 times overall from 1978 to 1993. It was during Holiday Bowl III that Jim McMahon led BYU to, arguably, the greatest comeback in college football bowl history as BYU trailed SMU by 20 points with 3:58 to play in the game. Quarterback Steve Young caught a touchdown on the final play of his Cougar career. BYU locked up the 1984 National Championship with a Holiday Bowl victory.
After Provo, it is quite possible that more historic moments in BYU football have happened in San Diego than anywhere else. When BYU was selected to play San Diego State in a bowl game in San Diego, it seemed that another historic moment in Cougar lore was destined to happen.
As an independent, BYU had worked out a deal with the Poinsettia Bowl to play there in 2012, if the Cougars were bowl eligible. The bowl selected the hometown Aztecs to be BYU's opponent. San Diego State was having one of its better seasons. The Aztecs won nine games and beat Boise State in Boise to win a share of the MWC Championship. On the other hand, BYU stumbled into the bowl with a 7-5 record. It appeared to be the perfect chance for San Diego State to exact revenge on the Cougars. For over 35 years, BYU had been a thorn in the Aztecs' side. Most recently, San Diego State felt a controversial ruling on a replay enabled BYU to win the last time these two schools met in 2010.
Beating BYU wouldn't be easy. The Cougars boasted their best defense in school history, and one of the best in the nation. Nevertheless, San Diego State had a 6-3 lead entering the fourth quarter. Kyle Van Noy had played very well through the first three quarters. He already had six tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and blocked a punt. The only problem was that none of Van Noy and the rest of the Cougar defense's stellar play was being reciprocated by the offense.
At the start of the fourth quarter, it appeared the BYU offense had turned the corner. BYU faced third-and-goal at the 4-yard line. However, a throw to the goal line was tipped and intercepted by San Diego State. The Aztecs took over at the 3-yard line.
As the foremost play maker on defense, Van Noy knew it was time to take matters into his own hands.
“We were talking about, as a unit, we need to step up and someone needs to cause a turnover,” Van Noy said after the game.
Causing turnovers was Van Noy's specialty. During the regular season he had forced five fumbles and added an interception. In this crucial moment, he reached into his bag of tricks and dusted off a play from the year before.
This wasn't the first time San Diego State had been backed up against its own goal line. The Aztecs' last two drives had started at their own 2- and 1-yard line, respectively. They also had a drive in the first quarter start at their own 5-yard line. The safe thing to do in these situations is to run the ball, which is exactly what San Diego State did on these three previous possessions. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall had a hunch that this time would be different. The Aztecs would pass. Van Noy lined up on the right side of the line. When the ball was snapped he forced his way past the offensive tackle and lunged at the quarterback. Van Noy got his hand on the ball just before the quarterback's arm started moving forward. He knocked it loose. The ball was bouncing in the back of the end zone. Van Noy quickly pounced on it for a touchdown.
It was nearly identical to the play at Ole Miss in the 2011 season opener when Van Noy scored to win that game. Van Noy lined up at the same spot and got the same result each time.
Van Noy's touchdown gave BYU the lead, 10-6, and it caused an epic meltdown by San Diego State. The Aztecs fumbled the snap on the first play after the Van Noy touchdown. BYU recovered. Jamaal Williams had struggled to pick up yards all game long, but on first down he ran 14 yards for a touchdown. Just 17 seconds had elapsed since Van Noy had scored.
San Diego State went three-and-out on its next possession. Van Noy teamed with Preston Hadley for a sack and forced an intentional grounding penalty on third down. Van Noy was now in full beast mode.
At 17-6, the game was essentially over. There was no way the Aztecs were scoring two touchdowns in the final 11:24, but that wasn't the bad news for San Diego State. The bad news was those final 11 minutes still had to be played.
BYU ran nearly five minutes off the clock before punting the ball back to San Diego State. With 6:29 to play, the Aztecs weren't throwing in the towel. As a matter of fact, their attitude was the exact opposite. They were going to go down throwing. Two incomplete passes quickly brought up a third-and-10. San Diego State ran another pass play.
Mendenhall had a heart and didn't send Van Noy on a pass rush. Instead, his assignment would be defending the right flat. The Cougar secondary had great coverage. San Diego State's quarterback could not find an open receiver. The pocket began to collapse, and the quarterback was flushed to the right. He thought he saw an open receiver on the sideline a few yards past the first down marker and threw the ball. What he didn't see was Van Noy three yards in front of his target. Van Noy intercepted the ball and then weaved his way through traffic to score his second touchdown of the game.
Hadley laughs as he talks about Van Noy's second score.
“I remember watching him fall down, slip and fall down, and stand back up and go back to where the ball was thrown,” Hadley said.
Indeed, it had become almost comical the way Van Noy was toying with the Aztecs. Van Noy had become a one-man wrecking crew. He made headlines in 2011 as the only player in the nation to register a tackle, tackle-for-loss, sack, interception, fumble recovery, forced fumble, quarterback hurry, pass breakup, blocked punt and touchdown. He repeated that feat in 2012, and in this bowl game he came up with eight of the 10 categories. All he missed was a quarterback hurry and pass breakup. Van Noy's stat line for the game: eight tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, a blocked punt and two touchdowns. It was the greatest defensive performance in a game by an individual in BYU history.
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The fact that this happened in storied San Diego only made it sweeter. It was Van Noy's rite of passage from being a Cougar great to a Cougar legend. Van Noy's greatest defensive performance came on the same field that Detmer had the greatest passing performance in college football bowl history (576 yards vs. Penn State, 1989). In the same end zone that Clay Brown caught Jim McMahon's hail Mary, Van Noy scored his two touchdowns. It was also the same end zone where Young danced like a giddy school boy after catching the game winning touchdown. In this same end zone, Robbie Bosco found Kelly Smith for the game winning touchdown in 1984.
"Kyle Van Noy: The Game Changer" is available online at Amazon.com. For each copy sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Holly and Bronco Mendenhall Foundation and International Aid Serving Kids.
Scott Rappleye has covered BYU football in depth for five years. His work has been published on several websites, including FoxSports.com, CollegeFootballNews.com, PhilSteele.com, KSL.com, and DeseretNews.com.