BYU stuns Ole Miss with late TD

Published 12:03 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

OXFORD — Linebacker Kyle Van Noy saw the bouncing football heading toward the end zone with only one thought in mind: Take advantage of this opportunity.

And after nearly four full quarters of missed chances, Van Noy didn’t let this one get away, corralling the football with 5:09 remaining for the go-ahead touchdown in BYU’s stunning 14-13 comeback victory over Ole Miss on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

“I just got lucky,” Van Noy said. “… I was trying not to panic, but my adrenaline was really running because I knew this was a good play.”

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BYU trailed 13-0 early in the fourth quarter, but Jake Heaps hit Ross Apo for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:52 remaining to pull within 13-7. Less than five minutes later, BYU’s defensive pressure forced Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt to fumble, and Van Noy jumped on the football to cap a stunning comeback in the season opener for both teams.

“We played with more urgency,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “It was enough to win the game.”

On the critical fumble recovery, Mendenhall added: “Kyle stepped up at a critical time, made a critical play and it turned out to be the difference in the game.”

BYU won its first game as an independent after leaving the Mountain West Conference last year. Heaps completed 24 of 38 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Cougars outgained the Rebels 318-208.

“I don’t know last year if we could have come through adversity like that,” Heaps said. “I’m really pleased with how we finished things today.”

Ole Miss led 3-0 at halftime and stretched it to 10-0 with 8:34 left in the third quarter on a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Sawyer. But the Rebels never scored an offensive touchdown.

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had said that he hoped Saturday’s game would be played in stifling heat and humidity since BYU comes from a more arid climate. But with Tropical Storm Lee looming, the weather was relatively pleasant, with highs in the 80s and overcast skies.

The first half was full of punts, defense and missed opportunities. BYU gained just 102 yards while Ole Miss managed just 93. Bryson Rose kicked a 20-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the first half to give the Rebels a 3-0 halftime lead.

Ole Miss sophomore Barry Brunetti started at quarterback, but the Rebels couldn’t do much with him under center. Part of that was because of an extremely conservative approach — Brunetti completed 2 of 3 passes for four yards before being pulled for Stoudt late in the second quarter.

Stoudt’s presence immediately energized the Rebels. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound junior completed two passes for a combined 21 yards on his first drive, which ended in Rose’s field goal just before the half. Stoudt finished 13 of 25 passing for 140 yards, but the crucial fumble is what most will remember.

The Rebels really didn’t get going until Sawyer’s interception, which stretched the lead to 10-0 and was the program’s longest interception return for a touchdown since 2007. Another Rose field goal pushed the Rebels’ lead to 13-0 early in the fourth quarter and the program looked well on its way to a much-needed quality win after a dismal 4-8 season in 2010.

BYU had other ideas.

“There’s a fine line between winning and losing,” Nutt said. “When you’re playing a really good team like that that’s rated high with experience you can’t beat yourself and you can’t give gifts. And we did that.”

The Cougars kept pounding away, with a 69-57 advantage in offensive plays. By the fourth quarter, the Rebels’ defense looked gassed and didn’t have an answer.

Ole Miss’ top two running backs — Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis — were injured during the game. Nutt said Bolden’s injury was to his left ankle and could possibly be a fracture. Bolden, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior, rushed for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.