Provo • Knocking on the door, 15 yards away from placing further pressure on the BYU offense, Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee received the ball from center.
That was it.
Kyle Van Noy had him on the grass. That third-and-8 opportunity on the first play of the fourth quarter deep in BYU territory resulted in the Cougar star letting out that all-too-familiar roar following one of his prototype sacks.
“Kyle was on him before I think [Lee] knew what was happening to him,” said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
The resulting fourth down was a 42-yard field goal pushed wide left by Yellow Jacket kicker Harrison Butker.
Despite giving up 400 yards against the Georgia Tech option-attack, the BYU defense put its foot down when it needed to in the final two quarters.
Three minutes after Van Noy’s crucial sack, another Cougar linebacker stepped into the fold. Alani Fua read Lee’s eyes on a first-and-10 pass play at the 50-yard line. The junior took care of the rest, picking off Lee and racing unscathed to the end zone to give BYU a 31-13 lead.
“Once that happened,” said quarterback Taysom Hill, “you could tell that Georgia Tech’s demeanor changed.”
Mendenhall said Fua’s interception gave the Cougars “a little breathing room.”
The defense ensured a little bit more later in the fourth.
Cornerback Rob Daniel stripped Georgia Tech leading rusher David Sims of the ball with less than seven minutes to go. Linebacker Spencer Hadley, playing in his first game since his suspension for violation of team rules, pounced.
What did the defense’s second half performance show against the No. 7 rushing team in the country?
“It shows that our defense is elite,” said running back Jamaal Williams.
Coming into Saturday night’s game at LaVell Edwards Stadium, both Georgia Tech (20th) and BYU (24th) were ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense. The Yellow Jackets came out with a different look and were able to convert on several third downs in the first half.
“Their defense doesn’t change,” Vad Lee said. “They just line up, they out man you, and that’s what they did to us.”
• Blake Morgan had 11 tackles, Kyle Van Noy added two sacks and three tackles for loss, and Alani Fua had an interception return for a touchdown.
• Linebacker Spencer Hadley contributed a sack and a fumble recovery in his first game back from suspension.
• Georgia Tech’s Vad Lee was just 7-of-20 passing for 133 yards and gained 41 yards on 21 carries.