BYU's uptempo offense taking its toll on Van Noy, defense
Another day, another honor for BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Monday, Van Noy was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. Tuesday, Van Noy was named one of 16 candidates for the Bednarik Award, which goes to the most outstanding defensive player in college football. Van Noy is also a quarterfinalist for the Lott IMPACT trophy. This season, Van Noy has recorded four sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hurries, six pass breakups, one interception for a touchdown, one safety, one fumble recovery and 47 tackles. Here's my notebook in Tuesday's Tribune that summarizes coach Bronco Mendenhall's feelings regarding the bye week it comes at the right time, he says and lists more of Van Noy's accomplishments. "I think it is a great accomplishment to be added to the list of best linebackers in the country. Not everybody can say that. I am really appreciative of being elected for that, but I wouldn't be able to do it without my teammates helping me out," Van Noy said after practice Tuesday. "So if I were to win any of the awards, it would also be a team award, too. I wouldn't be where I am without them." Coach Bronco Mendenhall said Van Noy is having a phenomenal season despite drawing double-teams and more attention than ever before. "I don't every underestimate what Kyle can do," Mendenhall said. "He's drawing a lot of attention by our opponents, I know that. There have been a lot of protection slides towards him and he's being chipped a lot. He's playing a lot of plays, but he's really good. Any accolades that he gets, he deserves." Van Noy is making a lot of plays this year, but he is also missing more tackles than during any other time of his BYU career. He missed a couple shots for tackles for loss against Houston, and a few more in the 37-20 win over Boise State last Friday. Outside linebackers coach Kelly Poppinga said Monday that Van Noy is beat up and tired. "Yeah, I think there are a lot of things to go with [Van Noy's missed tackles]," Poppinga said. "I think he is a little tired. He has played a lot of snaps up to this point. I think he has played more snaps, up to this point this season, once we play the Wisconsin game, he will have played more snaps in nine games than he did all of last season. That's just the nature of the beast with the [uptempo] offense and we are getting more plays that way. â¦ I think he's a little tired. His pad level is up a little bit. When he is making plays in space, he's too high, and he needs to break down and have a little better base. But I think a lot of it just goes to him being tired, and I need to do a better job of rotating him out and getting him some rest." I've actually asked coach Bronco Mendenhall about the sloppy tackling the last few games, but he doesn't seem to think it is a problem yet. "I think Boise has a really good running back," Mendenhall said Monday. "I also think in terms of plays run, it was  defensively. So at some point a really good running back, and a lot of plays, leads to wear and tear. I wouldn't have characterized it [as poor tackling]. I think there were a few missed tackles, but I still don't see it maybe at the level that you do." Van Noy was told Monday that Poppinga thinks he is tired. How is he feeling? "Beat up," he said. So the bye week comes at a good time for him? "Very good," he said. Later, Van Noy was asked about his missed tackles against Boise State. "How many missed tackles?," he asked, rather defiantly, then acknowledged, "Yeah, I think I need to shore up just a couple." Is the season playing out like he expected it would when he decided to return to BYU for his senior season? "For me, honestly, playing all these plays, it has been fun to be on the field more," Van Noy said. "Yes, it has been exhausting. Yes, there is more fatigue. Yes, you get banged up a little bit more. But that's for more stats, right? I think it is more time to be on the field with guys you practice hard with, and do the behind the scenes with. I think it is a challenge, almost. I think we are responding to the challenge well. I don't think there are as many teams in the country that have played as many plays as we have. And holding teams to 20 points. And that's pretty good, playing college football, [considering that] it is an offensive sport." I asked Poppinga whether this year's BYU defense is as good as last year's. Personally, I don't think it is even close to as good. Just look at the national rankings. The Cougars are No. 49 in the country in total defense, giving up 382.6 yards per game. Last year, they finished third in that category. They are No. 27 in scoring defense, giving up 21.3 points per game. And they are 32nd in third-down conversion percentage defense. Of course, as Poppinga points out, they are defending more plays this year, thanks to the uptempo offense. "Yeah, I would say we are not stopping the run as well as we did last year," Poppinga said. "But we are doing some things better than what we did last year. Overall, I think we are covering the pass better. But we are just defending more plays. That's the bottom line. If you look back at the number of plays we have defended, we are defending 30 more plays this season, a game, than what we defended last year. So we defended on average 60 plays a game. Right now, I think we are just under 90, and so I mean, really, we are playing a lot more plays. So the yardage may be more, but really the yards per play are almost identical." Actually, if numbers tweeted out by BYUtv's Jarom Jordan are accurate, the Cougars are defending only 17.8 more plays per game. Last year, teams averaged 60.7 offensive plays per game against BYU. This year, they are averaging 78.5. But maybe Poppinga threw out a game or two. He was certainly right about Boise State, which ran 90 plays against BYU on Friday. The Cougars are the third-fastest offense in the country through two-thirds of the season, running a play every 19.2 seconds. It should also be noted that BYU has forced 67 punts, which leads the nation by seven punts. "I just think we gotta deal with the hand that we are dealt, and whatever that may be, we gotta go out and perform and get off the field, and that's been an issue the last three games, really," Poppinga said. "We haven't done a good job on third downs, compared to what we have done in the past. I think it has been around 50 percent. The other team's offense has been converting. We got to do a better job getting off the field on third down and getting our offense back on the field." Van Noy's interview with reporters last night was far-reaching and informative. Here's more, including a funny description of a video that former BYU great Ziggy Ansah sent to Van Noy from Detroit, where he is starting at defensive end for the Lions: Van Noy on whether he talks to ZIggy much:"Yeah, Ziggy actually sent me a video the other day. It was pretty funny. Just telling me how much he misses me. You know, we still talk all the time, but we don't talk about football. We talk about life and that â¦ Me and Ziggy's relationship is different, I guess. It is not anything close to football. It is everything but football, I guess. We just have fun. We talk still. He's still a punk. â¦ I miss Ziggy every day. I wish he was still around. He was like a brother. He is a goofball."On what the video was like:"Just a big African in a car, talking trash. Saying, 'good luck.'Van Noy on the new KVN3.com website started by BYU's athletics department:"Yeah, actually I just looked at it last night for the first time, in detail. Me and my girlfriend sat and looked at it and went over it. I thought it was pretty cool, and pretty neat that people would do that for me."Van Noy on fellow LB Uani Unga's season: "Man, he's a soldier. He is playing with a broken hand. A lot of people could sit out for that. he wants to continue playing, and continue playing violently and physically and being a leader, and that's what a leader does. They step up. And he's doing a phenomenal job. It is fun to play with guys like that." Van Noy on if somebody had told you you would be 6-2 going into Wisconsin game in fall camp, would you have taken it: "No. I wanted to be 8-0. But I will take it now, because it is happening now. I can't complain about it. We have been in some close games. All of our games have been close, except for a couple. We just need to finish the ones that are really close, like the one we did in Houston, we finished there. If we get another game like that, we need to finish again." Van Noy on going into these big games like Wisconsin:'I think it is the highest it has ever been thus far. I think we are going into Wisconsin to prove ourselves, that we can play on the big stage, on ESPN or ABC or whatever network we are playing on, against a great opponent, against a great coach who I like, coach [Gary] Andersen, he's a great guy, against good players. It is going to be a good atmosphere. It is going to be a fun game. It is going to be physical, because their defense is physical. Our defense is physical, their offense is physical, and our offense can be physical, but also puts in finesse, so I think it is going to be a fun game."