Instant analysis: BYU 24, Tulsa 21

December, 30, 2011
12/30/11
2:29
PM CT
UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas -- It was an exciting finish as BYU got the victory with time running out at the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars won it, 24-21.

How the game was won: BYU quarterback Riley Nelson, a comeback specialist, did a great Dan Marino impersonation, faking as if he was going to spike the ball at the Tulsa 2-yard line, then throwing a touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman in the end zone with 11 seconds left in the game. That gave the Cougars the three-point victory. The drive was 12 plays and 48 yards and took up 4:07 to leave Tulsa with barely any time left to attempt a few plays at the end of the game.

Turning point: Tulsa led 14-3 with time nearly out in the first half when junior J.D. Ratliff went back to receive a punt. But he wasn't able to catch it cleanly and BYU's David Foote recovered the fumble at the Tulsa 17-yard line with 25 seconds left in the half. BYU scored on the next play when Nelson found Hoffman for a 17-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-10. That gave BYU some momentum and closed the gap as the teams headed for the locker room.

Stat of the game: It's not often that you see the winning quarterback complete just 17 of 40 passes (42.5 percent). Give Nelson credit for this: He hung in and made the throws he needed to down the stretch to help his team win the game.

Player of the game: BYU wide receiver Hoffman had three touchdown catches, including the game winner. The three TDs set an Armed Forces Bowl record. Hoffman finished with eight catches for 122 yards, including several big catches on third down to move the chains.

Unsung hero of the game: Junior BYU punter Riley Stephenson had a tremendous day, forcing Tulsa to go a long way on most of its drives. Stephenson had eight punts, and seven of them were inside the 20-yard line. That included a punt downed at the 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter with the Cougars down by 4. When the defense got the stop, BYU was able to get good field position to get into position for the winning drive.

Honorable mention: BYU's Kyle Van Noy and Tulsa's Dexter McCoil. Van Noy, a sophomore linebacker, was all over the field, forcing Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne to scramble and hurry throws. He also was a big part of BYU's run defense, which held Tulsa to 37 rushing yards. Van Noy forced a fumble midway through the fourth quarter to help end a Tulsa drive.

McCoil, a junior defensive back for Tulsa, had a penchant for key plays. He had two interceptions and actually caught a third, but it was called back because of an offside penalty.

Jeers to: Tulsa's ground game, which couldn't generate much of anything against BYU's solid rush defense. The Golden Hurricane had 37 rushing yards on 27 attempts, allowing BYU to key in on Kinne throughout most of the game.

What it means: The victory gave BYU 10 wins for the fifth time in Bronco Mendenhall's seven-year tenure with the Cougars. He is 5-2 in bowl games. Tulsa falls to 8-5 on the season after going 7-1 in Conference USA.
Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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