(Friday, December 30th)
Final Score: BYU 24, Tulsa 21
Dallas, TX (Sports Network) - Riley Nelson threw three touchdown passes to Cody Hoffman, including a two-yarder with 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, as BYU rallied to beat Tulsa, 24-21, in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Nelson completed 17-of-40 passes for 250 yards with two interceptions for the Cougars (10-3), who made their seventh consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Hoffman finished with 122 yards on eight receptions.
"I was really pleased with the way our team battled, the grit, the determination, especially the second half," said Mendenhall. "I think they played hungry. We have a strong reputation of when the games are close to find a way to win."
Tulsa's G.J. Kinne matched Nelson with three touchdown passes, but the Golden Hurricane (8-5) couldn't get BYU's offense off the field down the stretch.
"I could not be prouder of the men I get to lead," said Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship. "So thankful I had this year with these seniors, the way they have battled every single game, I couldn't be more thankful or more proud. We just came up a little short today."
The Cougars began the decisive drive at the Tulsa 48-yard line with 4:18 to play. Nelson ran for 14 yards on 4th-and-9 to move the chains, and BYU converted a pair of third downs before a six-yard pass from Nelson to Marcus Mathews set up a 2nd-and-goal.
With no timeouts remaining, Nelson hurried to the line, faked the spike and found Hoffman at the right front corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Tulsa started the game by marching 76 yards in 11 plays and Kinne capped off the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Johnson
The Golden Hurricane offense was held in check following the impressive opening possession until Bryan Burnham made a juggling catch along the left sideline for a 50-yard gain in the second quarter. Two plays later, Kinne connected on a 14-yard scoring strike to Clay Sears.
In between the two touchdowns, BYU's Justin Sorensen kicked a 35-yard field goal after an offsides penalty wiped out a Nelson interception.
Tulsa looked to go into halftime with an 11-point lead in tow, but J.D. Ratliff, with defenders moving in, opted to field a punt and wound up losing control. David Foote recovered the fumble for BYU at the Tulsa 17-yard line inside the final minute.
On the next play from scrimmage, Nelson received a key block from a helmetless member of his offensive line, allowing him to throw a touchdown pass across the field to Hoffman that trimmed the Cougars' deficit to 14-10.
Following the break, Dexter McCoil picked off Nelson for a second time and scampered 32 yards to the BYU 35. Tulsa failed to capitalize on the turnover as Kevin Fitzpatrick missed a 46-yard field goal wide right.
The Cougars responded on the ensuing drive, grabbing a 17-14 lead on Hoffman's 30-yard TD grab with 1:41 to play in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kinne answered with a 30-yard TD pass to Burnham to put Tulsa back on top.
Tulsa suffered all four of its previous losses this season to teams ranked in the top 10 at the time (No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Boise State and No. 8 Houston)...Kinne finished with 214 yards on 17-of-31 passing...Burnham made four catches for 113 yards...JJ Di Luigi paced BYU's rushing attack with 38 yards on 10 carries...Tulsa was limited to 37 yards on the ground...BYU improved to 7-1 against the Golden Hurricane...Tulsa also played in the Armed Forces Bowl in 2006, losing 25-13 to Utah.
12/30 19:02:22 ET