PROVO — Kyle Van Noy has two wishes for BYU football, a place where quarterback issues dominate this week.
It isn't an issue with haircuts. It isn't more TV time. It isn't bigger crowds in LaVell Edwards Stadium, which has sold out two of three. It isn't even more peace of mind for one of his best friends, QB Jake Heaps, who was benched last Saturday.
The Cougar linebacker, who scored a touchdown at Ole Miss and tipped a game-saving pass for an interception against Central Florida, would simply like two things to be reversed from this season.
"I want the Texas game back. And I want the Utah game back," said Van Noy.
Simple as that. Van Noy hates losing.
And he'll do everything he can to avoid it.
He'd catch passes if they'd let him. He'd throw the ball if somebody asked. He'd return kickoffs if it were his duty. He'd even kick field goals if it would help.
But his job is to defend.
And in doing what he can, Van Noy vows to follow the mantra given by defensive coordinator and head coach Bronco Mendenhall: Be more physical.
At Oxford, BYU's defense sent three key Mississippi players to the sidelines. Against Texas and Utah, everybody with eyeballs saw the Cougars dish out hits that sent opposing players cart-wheeling with a little falsetto to their speech.
But two losses are two losses.
And all Van Noy and his fellow defenders can do to prevent more is make more plays.
BYU's defense has been the best part of the football team. The Cougars rank 28th in pass defense, 36th in pass-efficiency defense, 49th in total defense and 63rd in scoring defense, allowing 25 points per game.
It is scoring defense that matters most to Mendenhall.
Interesting to note, with the pick-six at Ole Miss, the gift touchdowns at the goal line against Utah and another on a forced fumble inside BYU's 10 against the Utes, BYU's scoring defense figure is a little skewed. Add the 80-yard TD run by USU's Robert Turbin last Friday and opponents have scored 35 points against the Cougars with BYU's defense actually on the field for a couple of plays, thanks to the offense and special teams issues.
A more-realistic figure would be BYU's defense is allowing 18 points per game.
"We're trying to be relentless and play BYU defense," said Van Noy. "Coach Mendenhall has high expectations and very high standards for our defense. We're just trying to reach those goals and go beyond them because everyone on this defense knows how good our D-line is, how good our 'backers and DBs are playing.
"As a whole, we feel we can be unstoppable. We've seen glimpses of it to this point. Even in the last game, at the end, they (Utah State's offense) had only 13 of 15 plays that were positive.
"It's going back to being relentless, grimy and physical; that's a huge force that Mendenhall is putting into every one of us. It will be a huge benefit to us in a game because we practice it every day."
Van Noy acknowledges he's seen surprise on the faces of opponents who were taken aback on how physical BYU's defense played in September.
He's also seen what teams have tried to do to counter.
"They've tried to do more confusing stuff. You know, trick plays, a lot of misdirection and quarterback rides. They've tried to get us to commit and then go another way on us. It's smart, but we're getting used to it and we'll see more of it this week. The more we see it, the better we'll be prepared to go against it."
Van Noy said the energy created from last Friday's comeback win in the fourth quarter against Utah State isn't something the Cougars are necessarily trying to ride into the San Jose State game this Saturday.
"It really goes back to practice and just how hard we practice. That game is over and done with. We are looking at San Jose State. They are a good team with a good quarterback and running back and skilled position players."
Van Noy said SJSU reminds him of Utah State, as far as talent and quickness and ability to put the ball in the hands of playmakers.
He sees the Spartans as another big challenge.15 comments on this story
"We're trying to look at them and what they can do best and what we can do best. We expect it will be another big battle."
Van Noy said Tuesday's BYU practice was very tough. "It was like an actual game out there. It's how Mendenhall wants it."
Trust is a big word being used in the Cougar camp right now.
Said Van Noy, "The more you trust each other, the more it enables you to do your assignment the best you can, and you do it the best you can because you want to play hard for the guy next to you."
And he still wants Texas and Utah mulligans — do-overs.