PROVO — The 2011 season saw many great plays from the BYU football team en route to a 10-3 record. Deciding on the top 10 plays wasn't an easy task as a result with top plays being made on offense, defense and special teams throughout the year. But here are a few that really stood out.
The game was still a close one with BYU leading 17-13 with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter. At that point, inside linebacker Uona Kaveinga forced a fumble from Hawaii running back Joey Iosefa. The fumble was scooped up by defensive back Joe Sampson and taken all the way back for a touchdown. After that play, the romp was on, as BYU went on to score the next 17 points on their way to an easy 41-20 victory.
Jake Heaps' final touchdown pass as a BYU Cougar may have been his best. Heaps was able to duck under an oncoming pass-rusher, maintain his composure and throw a strike to JD Falslev for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Up to that point, the embattled Cougar quarterback had struggled with pocket composure, and that play illustrated what he is capable of producing.
Although BYU lost the game, JD Falslev managed one of the best plays of the season, returning a punt 67 yards for a touchdown. The 2011 season provided some standout special teams play from the Cougars, and Falslev's return was certainly one of the many great ones.
With BYU leading 24-17, the Knights were driving deep, reaching the BYU 17-yard line with 2:54 remaining in the contest. At that point, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy was able to get his hand on an attempted pass, tipping it to Joe Sampson for the turnover. Van Noy then sealed the game with a sack with Central Florida threatening again with 34 seconds remaining and the ball at midfield. Van Noy flew at the Central Florida QB, as if shot from a cannon, backing the Knights into a third-and-long situation. More importantly, it took some 20 seconds off the clock before UCF's next snap.
It was BYU's first scored touchdown on a kickoff return since the 1998 season. With BYU down 17-10 with just 4:50 left in the third quarter, Hoffman was able to take the ball 93 yards back for the score. While Hoffman did the legwork, he was untouched on the return due to the stellar blocking of the return unit.
Hoffman provided many great catches throughout the 2011 season, but none were more spectacular than his one-handed stab of a Riley Nelson pass late against Hawaii. The pass appeared to be out of Hoffman's grasp before a late burst and a great one-handed effort resulted in a score from 38 yards out to put BYU up 38-13 at the close of the third quarter.
In his last game as a Cougar, Matt Reynolds provided what will definitely be his most-memorable play. After losing his helmet attempting to cut block a Golden Hurricane pass rusher, Reynolds got back on his feet to administer a de-cleating blindside block on Cory Dorris as he was baring down on a scrambling Riley Nelson. With Dorris out of the picture, Nelson completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman to give BYU its first lead at 17-14 late in the third quarter.
With 5:18 remaining in the game and BYU down 13-7, Kyle Van Noy made one of the better defensive plays you'll ever see. With the Rebels deep in their own territory, Van Noy tore around the end along with Jordan Pendleton from the other side, bearing down on Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt simultaneously, with Van Noy causing the fumble. After Eathyn Manumaleauna failure to scoop up the ball, Van Noy followed up on his forced fumble to recover the ball in the end zone, putting BYU up 14-13. That proved to be the final score of the game
With 15 seconds left in the game and BYU trailing the Aggies 24-20, Riley Nelson completed one of the more improbable comeback wins in BYU history. Taking the snap at the Utah State 13-yard line, Nelson attempted a pass that was thrown behind JJ Di Luigi across the middle. The ball was tipped high in the air and into the waiting arms of Marcus Mathews in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
Riley Nelson again provided some late-second heroics to end the season with a 24-21 bowl win over Tulsa. With BYU reaching the 2-yard line after a short pass to Marcus Mathews with 20 seconds left on the clock, Nelson elected not to spike the ball, faking to do so and in turn completing the game-winning touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman for the game-winning score.