OXFORD, Miss. – In their first game as an Independent football team, BYU traveled to Oxford Mississippi to face the Ole Miss Rebels. In spite of moving the ball on multiple drives, BYU’s offense was only able to score one touchdown. That touchdown, combined with a defensive touchdown at the end, was just enough to give BYU a 14-13 victory.
The final score was a little bit deceiving as BYU seemed to control the game almost the entire way as they racked up more first downs (20-BYU 13-Ole Miss), passing yards (225-BYU 144-Ole Miss), and rushing yards (31-BYU 29-Ole Miss) while committing one less turnover.
Early in the game, Jake Heaps was poised and confident. He seemed to know exactly what to do and when to do it. Unfortunately his accuracy was hit and miss early. He didn’t struggle at all finding open receivers, but his passes were either dead on or way off. The lack of consistency in the passing game wasn’t the cougar’s only problem. Through the first three quarters, they kept having nice drives that tripped up before they could put any points on the board. At the end of the third quarter, the cougars still hadn’t scored a single point.
On the Cougar’s second possession, for example, they started at their own 21. They slowly drove the ball until they got a first down on the Ole Miss 30-yard line, decent field goal range, they were then called for a false start, ran the ball two consecutive times for losses, and on 3rd and 23 Heaps overthrew his receiver, forcing the cougars to punt when they should have at least gotten a field goal.
Through most of the first half, BYU’s defense kept Ole Miss from getting anything going. Consequentially, when Ole Miss got the ball with 2:54 left in the half, having had four possessions where they gained only 7, 18, 11, and 8 yards respectively, Head Coach Houston Nutt changed things up for their last drive of the half. Nutt took out second-string quarterback Barry Brunetti and put in third string quarterback Zack Stoudt, their starting quarterback was suspended from the game. The move finally got the Rebel offense moving. On that last drive they went 49 yards in just over 2 minutes and kicked in a 20-yard field goal to go up 0-3 at halftime.
Heaps hit his receivers much more accurately in the second half, allowing him to finish the game having completed 24/38 passes in the game for 225 yards. In their first possession of the second half, BYU started at their own 11-yard line. After seven plays, they had moved the ball 67 yards to the Rebels 22-yard line. At that point, Heaps threw his first and only interception of the night which was caught at the 4-yard line by Charles Sawyer. Sawyer then ran it all the way back for a touchdown, putting the Rebels up 0-10.
BYU missed another opportunity to score, getting the ball on their own 20 and driving 69 yards to the Ole Miss 11-yard line only to get stopped, lose a little yardage, and miss a 31-yard field goal.
Stoudt then picked up the pace for the Rebels, completing passes for 21, 12, and 24 yards to set up the Rebels for another field goal to put them up 0-13 in the fourth quarter.
At that point, BYU finally shook off the myriad of problems they’d been having with a touchdown drive. This drive included Heaps hitting his receivers perfectly 5 times for 49 yards with no incomplete passes, and ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Ross Apo.
The Cougar defense then stepped up big. After bringing up a 3rd and 27 on the Old Miss 21 yard line, sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy broke through the pocket and hit Stoudt at about the 3-yard line for what everyone thought was going to be a sack, but as Stoudt was falling to the ground he lost the ball and Van Noy was able to recover the fumble and take it across the goal line for a touchdown to put BYU up 14-13.
After the game, BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall was pleased with how his team finished the game saying, “They just never gave up. …It’s just the beginning of a new era. It’s a great way to start, on the road against an SEC team!”
Next week BYU will travel to Austin Texas to take on the Texas Longhorns.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.