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Three Things That Changed the Game: BYU

While there are often a large number of plays that decidedly impact a football game, there are almost always two to three things that really shape the game. You know. The big plays. The big stats. The battles within the game that are won or lost. Throughout football season, I will revisit three key happenings from the previous game and talk about the impact they had overall. While the chosen topics may not have ultimately decided the victor, they will always have had a profound impact on the game.

The three things which I have chosen for the BYU game are:

1.  BYU's scoop and score 

2. Charles Sawyer's 94 yard interception return for touchdown

3. Brandon Bolden being knocked out of the game


"Honorable" mentions which will not be discussed are:

1. Nick Brassell dropping a 40 yard touchdown pass

2. BYU holding the Rebels to fewer than 100 rushing yards

1. BYU's scoop and score

Obviously, this was the biggest game-changing moment. With just over nine minutes left in the game, Ole Miss was nursing a 13-7 lead and had the ball. We quickly converted for a first down with a 17 yard pass to Ferbia Allen. After two plays that didn't move the ball, they faced a third and ten situation. Stoudt, who was steady, hit Ja-Mes Logan for an eleven yard gain. The clock was just under seven minutes, and the Rebels had a first down on their 38. We had good field position, a chance to continue moving the ball, and the lead. On first down, the offensive line (I believe it was Matt Hall) held. 1st and 20 on the Ole Miss 28. After a three yard run by Devin Thomas, the Rebs ran a screen to the flats. it wasn't a bad call, and it picked up a bit of yardage, but Patrick Junen inexplicably blocked a player who wasn't going to make a play in the player's back. Of course, that's a ten yard penalty. Next, Stoudt passed to HR Greer for no gain. With just over five minutes remaining on the clock, the Rebels faced a 3rd down with 27 yards to pick up. Knowing what we had done earlier on a 3rd and 9 (ran a draw with Jeff Scott), we would surely run up the middle or do something else dinky-and-dunky in order to allow our punter (who had punted a ball in the air for 73 yards earlier) to back the BYU offense past the 50. Then we would have let our defense (who had only allowed one score at this point) win or lose the game for us.

But we didn't. Instead, Stoudt dropped back to the Ole Miss eight, looked for a receiver, then backpedaled a bit more. BYU sophomore linebacker Kyle Van Noy (unblocked by Ferbia Allen and Devin Thomas) was able to reach Stoudt and hit the ball out of his outstretched arm. After a few people bumbled to gain control of the ball, Van Noy picked it up and was tackled into the end zone. What would have been BYU ball down 13-7 on their own side of the field became Ole Miss' down a point with similar field position as the drive before. It would ultimately decide the game.

2. Charles Sawyer's 96-yard interception return for touchdown

Let me paint you a picture. The Rebels are up 3-0 in a game where neither team has moved the ball well. BYU has just gotten the ball for their first drive of the third quarter. This will be their opportunity to show how their offense has adjusted during halftime. They start at their own 11. Six plays later, they're at Ole Miss' 25 yard line and appear to have figured out the defense. Jake Heaps drops back and sees a receiver who appears (to me and everyone sitting around me) to be wide open heading into the end zone. He sees him, and delivers the ball. Fortunately, he does not see newly-moved safety Charles Sawyer baiting the route. Sawyer jumps in front of the ball at the perfect time, plucks the ball out of the air, makes several defenders miss, and runs back nearly the entire length of the field culminating in a touchdown which puts the Rebels up 10-0. Had Sawyer not been there, we would be looking at a 7-3 BYU lead and an Ole Miss defense that could potentially break down.

3. Brandon Bolden being knocked out of the game

On the four carries Bolden received, he produced yardage totals of 8, 7, 2, and 4 averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Bolden was knocked out of the game with 13 minutes left in the second quarter, having already accumulated 21 rushing yards. The Rebels would finish the day with 64 yards rushing, and Enrique Davis, with twelve carries to Bolden's four, would only manage seven additional yards.

Bolden was the only Rebel back who showed the ability to pick up yards when the defense knew he was going to be running, and he made the offensive line's job much easier by finding holes quickly and getting to open space. Without him, the playcalling didn't change, but the execution did. Davis' twelve carries (most of which were up the middle) gained him 28 yards. That's good for 2.3 yards per carry. The ground game simply couldn't get going with Davis carrying the ball. Once the Rebels couldn't run, they couldn't win.