OXFORD, Miss. -- Linebacker Kyle Van Noy recovered a fumble in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown as BYU came back to beat Mississippi 14-13 Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
BYU trailed 13-0 early in the fourth quarter, but Jake Heaps hit Ross Apo for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:52 remaining to pull within 13-7. Less than five minutes later, BYU's defensive pressure forced Ole Miss quarterback Zack Stoudt to fumble, and Van Noy jumped on the football to cap a stunning comeback.
Ole Miss led 3-0 at halftime and stretched it to 10-0 with 8:34 left in the third quarter on a 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by Charles Sawyer.
BYU won its first game as an independent after leaving the Mountain West Conference last year. Heaps completed 24 of 38 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Cougars outgained the Rebels 318-208.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had said that he hoped Saturday's game would be played in stifling heat and humidity since BYU comes from a more arid climate. But with Tropical Storm Lee looming, the weather was relatively pleasant, with highs in the 80s and overcast skies.
The first half was full of punts, defense and missed opportunities. BYU gained just 102 yards while Ole Miss managed just 93. Bryson Rose kicked a 20-yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the first half to give the Rebels a 3-0 halftime lead.
Ole Miss sophomore Barry Brunetti started at quarterback, but the Rebels couldn't do much with him under center. Part of that was because of an extremely conservative approach. Brunetti completed 2 of 3 passes for four yards before being pulled for Stoudt late in the second quarter.
Stoudt's presence immediately energized the Rebels. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound junior completed two passes for a combined 21 yards on his first drive, which ended in Rose's field goal just before the half. Stoudt finished 13 of 25 passing for 140 yards, but the crucial fumble is what most will remember.
But the Rebels really didn't get going until Sawyer's interception, which stretched the lead to 10-0 and was the program's longest interception return for a touchdown since 2007. Another Rose field goal stretched the Rebels' lead to 13-0 early in the fourth quarter and the program looked well on its way to a much-needed quality win after a dismal 4-8 season in 2010.
BYU had other ideas.
The Cougars kept pounding away, with a 69-57 advantage in offensive plays. By the fourth quarter, the Rebels' defense looked gassed, and didn't have an answer for the BYU offense. JJ Di Luigi rushed for 56 yards and also caught four passes for 32 yards.
But the biggest play was Stoudt's fumble. Three BYU defenders converged on Stoudt, slamming him to the turf as the ball popped loose. Van Noy took advantage of the opportunity, pouncing on the bouncing ball to lead the Cougars to the victory.
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