San Francisco • It was quite possibly the best defensive performance by a BYU football player ever, let alone in a bowl game.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy single-handedly destroyed San Diego State in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl, leading the Cougars to a 23-6 win with a fumble he caused and recovered for a touchdown, an interception he returned for a touchdown, eight tackles, two sacks and a blocked punt.
Can the senior do it again?
He’s fielded that question a lot lately, as the Cougars (8-4) prepare to face Washington (8-4) in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Friday night at AT&T Park (7:30 p.m. MST, ESPN).
“We will see,” he says.
After that performance, which several national publications called the best by a defender of any in the 2012 postseason, Van Noy seemed like a lock to head to the NFL. But the Reno, Nev., product stunned draft experts everywhere, returning for his senior season and garnering various All-America honors for the second straight year.
Van Noy said he had some unfinished business, and he tied up one of those loose ends last week, graduating and receiving his degree in history, with a minor in communication. He also got engaged to Marissa Powell, the former Miss Utah, last month.
Regarding the degree, Van Noy said it was a “big accomplishment” for him and his family.
“Now I am stress-free,” he said. “I am excited, and hungry to get back on the field one last time.”
Regarding the engagement, Van Noy said he’s “flat-out broke” after purchasing the ring, but excited about the nuptials sometime this summer.
“I am happy. She is awesome. She is wonderful. I love her,” he said.
Along with exchanging wedding vows, he will be getting ready for an NFL camp in July. But first things first: Friday’s showdown against one of the best offenses in the country.
“It means a lot to me that I haven’t lost in a bowl game,” he said. “It is pretty cool. I hope to continue it and help give the team a kickstart into next year. Also, I want to send the seniors off right.”
Van Noy has been hesitant this season to talk about the legacy he will leave at BYU as quite possibly the best defensive player in school history, but at Monday’s introductory press conference in San Francisco he opened up about that a bit.
“The accolades and all that have been nice, but I just hope to be remembered as someone you want to have around, to have be a part of whatever you are doing,” he said. “I think that’s what I would want most, because that’s who I believe I am, just a regular person that enjoys having fun, but who plays football. Because, that’s my job.”
Along with being BYU’s first two-time All-American since Dennis Pitta (2008, 2009), Van Noy will be remembered for his loyalty to the program, quarterback Taysom Hill and coach Bronco Mendenhall said on Monday.
“I think that was demonstrated with him coming back for his senior season this year when he had the opportunity to go to the NFL,” Hill said. “He felt some sort of loyalty to the school, and he has brought a lot of great publicity to the school. Not only that, he is loyal to his teammates. That is the thing I will remember about Kyle Van Noy.”
Mendenhall said he will never forget how Van Noy “kept his word to BYU” and finished his commitment.
“Nowadays, with college football and the entitlement generation, and immediate gratification, to postpone that, for the sake of doing what he said he was going to do, that’s meaningful to me,” Mendenhall said.
Van Noy’s numbers were down the last month of the season in games against Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Nevada, but he refuted reports that he has played hurt.
“I’m fine,” he said.
Mendenhall said his production was down because he was often double-teamed and because teams ran plays away from his side.
“That is just part of what happens when you are a really good player with a lot of attention and exposure,” Mendenhall said. “It won’t show up on the stat column as much, bit will certainly show up in the schematic column for us coaches.”
Kyle Van Noy’s bowl statistics
Games Total TFL/ Sacks INTs/ Forced Blocked
played tackles yards yards fumbles kicks
3 20 9.5/36 3 1/17 2 1
Fight Hunger Bowl
O At San Francisco
BYU vs. Washington
Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN