MADISON, Wis. - Andy Ludwig would be hard-pressed to forget just how good BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy can be. But after Van Noy terrorized San Diego State's offense in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl it'd be hard to blame him.
Van Noy finished the game with 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown- outscoring San Diego State's offense in BYU's 23-6 win, and earning himself some NFL draft hype along the way. But Van Noy ultimately decided to return to BYU for his senior season, despite rumblings that he could have been taken somewhere in the second round of the draft.
And while you'd normally think that moving to a different part of the country to coach for a different school would be enough for Ludwig and offensive line coach T.J. Woods to have seen the last of Van Noy, he and BYU's 3-4 defense are coming to Madison for a non-conference game this weekend. Woods coached against Van Noy and the Cougars in his four years with Gary Andersen at Utah State, and the first-year Wisconsin coach said he has a lot of respect for how Van Noy can change games single-handedly.
"He's a dynamic player," Woods said after practice Tuesday. "He makes plays in the run game and in the pass game. He's a guy who can impact the game at any point, and I think that's pretty unique for defensive players."
And while Van Noy isn't piling up tackles for loss at the same rate he did as a junior, senior offensive lineman Ryan Groy said Van Noy is able to affect the game in other ways.
"He's a great athlete," Groy said. "I think they kind of give him the reins to do what he wants. It's its pass protection or run protection I think he has free rein to, not exactly be a two-gap guy, he can swim inside or go outside. I think he's athletic enough to make those plays."
Saturday's game will also be an important test for the Badgers in that they'll be playing Van Noy and a defensive scheme that's far removed from the 4-3 fronts they usually see in the Big Ten. The Cougars run a 3-4 base defense, much like the Badgers do under Dave Aranda, and Woods said the two teams are pretty similar in what they try to do to an opposing offense.
"I think that they're very similar to our defense in that they make you work mentally as much as they make you work physically," Woods said. "There's a lot of times you'll face teams who will make you do one or the other."
But it's not just that the Badgers and the Cougars employ a similar defensive scheme- they're both near the top in several defensive categories this year. The Badgers are fifth in the nation in points allowed per game this year (15), whereas the Cougars are ranked 27th and allow just over 21 points per game. The Badgers also allow just 4.35 yards per play (5th nationally), while the Cougars come in at just 4.87 (16th).
In that sense the Badgers could still have an extra advantage, even though their coaching staff doesn't think their previous history against BYU will give them more of an edge. The Badgers offense plays against its 3-4 defense all the time during spring and fall camps, with a few reps here and there during the season as well.
The schemes aren't carbon copies of each other, but in a game that's expected to be close the Badgers will take whatever advantage they can get over BYU and Van Noy.
"Going up against [our defense] in spring and fall camp was huge," Groy said. "Normally it's an odd front and you'd be working super hard the week before, trying to get the schemes correct. But we know what the schemes are, and we know what we're going to attack it with."
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