SAN DIEGO — BYU junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy earned numerous accolades for his late-game heroics, but much of the credit for the Cougar success at the end of the game should also go to senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree.
As the heart of the BYU run defense, Ogletree's job in his final game as a Cougar was to slow San Diego State's talented sophomore running back Adam Muema — not an easy chore.
Muema ended up with 103 yards rushing but only 31 in the second half when the game was on the line. Frequently, he tried to hit the hole only to find Ogletree already waiting.
"Brandon was instrumental in the inside run," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "We forced San Diego State to become more one-dimensional and any time someone becomes more one-dimensional, we can pressure."
Ogletree ended up with a game-high 10 tackles including two tackles for a loss.
"It was gratifying to play against them they way we did," Ogletree said. "We prided ourselves all year in stopping the run and I think we did a good job of that.
"We love playing physical football and so do they, so we knew it was going to be a good challenge. I think we won that challenge."
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment, according to the other Cougar players at the press conference, was that they got Ogletree to smile.
"I'm not sure either one of us smiles a lot but his work and his leadership is the heart and soul of this defensive group," Mendenhall said. "I'm not sure there is anyone I will miss more and the impact he has had for us defensively has been remarkable."
Ogletree said that he does smile a lot but it's not something that the media gets to see as often.
"There is a part of me you don't see but Kyle and Cody will tell you that I'm probably one of the more funny dudes on the team," Ogletree said.
"Funny or crazy?" Van Noy asked.
"Both," Ogletree responded. "When I step on the field, I definitely carry a chip on my shoulder. A lot of that probably carries over to press conferences or after practice."
Honesty is the best policy: Linebackers coach Paul Tidwell has a special place in his heart for junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
And not just because Van Noy produced two touchdowns in what could have been his final college game.
Tidwell can recall with ease all of the turmoil Van Noy went through in 2009, when his enrollment to BYU was delayed because of some alcohol-related issues. Rather than bail and go play somewhere else, where perhaps the road wouldn't have been so tough, Van Noy bided his time.
"He's gotten more and more mature every year," Tidwell said.
Will he gain any more maturity in college? Van Noy gave a bit of a peeved look when a reporter asked Van Noy if he wanted to make an announcement, offering a faint smile then not adding any words.
Tidwell said he's not sure about his player’s future.
"We're pretty close and he told me very recently he hasn't made his decision yet. Honest truth," Tidwell said. "After tonight, my personal opinion — my hope — is he feels the brotherhood of the team and comes back."
The coach said Van Noy, who had 13 sacks for the season — the most since Jan Jorgensen produced a school-record 14 in 2007 — has kept BYU coaches in the loop about his thought process.
"He's done a great job of talking to the head man and keeping this as close to the sleeve as possible without having too many people try to persuade him," Tidwell said. "We've tried to leave him alone...I think he was going to wait until after this game to make a decision."
For the second straight year, Van Noy recorded stats in every defensive category. He got his fumble recovery tonight, coming on his touchdown early in the fourth quarter that gave BYU a 10-6 lead.
BYU expects more honesty as Van Noy checks out his NFL draft potential with league executives, the coaching staff and his family.
"Even at the end of high school, when he was struggling with some of his discipline problems, he was always honest with us," Tidwell said. "Even today, if you asked him something — and it was something you may not want to hear — he's an honest person."
Unusual MVP: Outsiders on Twitter watching the Poinsettia Bowl (those with no connection to either team) deemed it a boring game.
That's what happens, apparently, when the punter is deemed the MVP.
While Van Noy took home defensive honors and receiver Cody Hoffman was pegged as the offensive selection, SDSU coach Rocky Long thought punter Riley Stephenson made the biggest difference.
The senior capped his college career with eight punts. He only averaged 33.5 yards, and a couple of early tries were flat-out shanks.
But he also nailed six inside the 20-yard line, three inside the 5 and another was touched dead at the 9 while the outcome was in doubt.
"Field position made it tough on our offense," Long said.
Out with a bang: Mendenhall made a post-game announcement, in the middle of a question about finishing the season strong, that assistant head coach Lance Reynolds is retiring.
Reynolds has served a variety of roles on the offensive side over the last 31 years. Mendenhall noted how unusual it was for a coach to spend that long at one school, through three head coaches.
Reynolds addressed the team after the game and received a lot of celebration. It makes Reynold’s bowl-game career come pretty full circle, considering all of the times in the 1980’s that the Cougars played in San Diego at the then-growing Holiday Bowl.