This year’s Armed Forces Bowl may not have featured as many points possible with high-scoring Tulsa taking on BYU, but it still came down to the final minute. And, in the end, it was BYU who came out on top of a 24-21 game that never featured a lead by any team larger than one touchdown.
Two of BYU’s three scores came within the final seconds of each half, but one really put the Cougars back in the game. BYU couldn’t muster much of anything offensively and had just three points on the scoreboard when they punted to Tulsa with just under a minute left in the second quarter, but a muffed punt gave BYU great field position for quarterback Riley Nelson.
One play later, Nelson threw a 17-yard touchdown to Cody Hoffman, who made a diving second effort to cross the goal line after grabbing the ball in the middle of the field from a Nelson scramble. That was the turning point for the junior QB, who had by that point had done nothing but throw two bad interceptions. A 14-10 halftime deficit soon disappeared when BYU took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter, and the Cougars needed more last-minute heroics from Nelson and Hoffman to beat the Golden Hurricane.
In all, the QB-WR connected eight times for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Nelson started out shaky, but really finished strong for BYU, giving him and the team (10-3) lots of momentum heading into the offseason. No five-star Jake Heaps? No problem. Nelson had originally taken a backseat to the younger Heaps, who has since transferred to Kansas, but has been the consistent starter for the Cougars this year after the sophomore Heaps was benched during the Utah State game.
Coincidentally enough, Nelson scored the game winning touchdowns against USU and Tulsa with the same amount of time left in the game: 11 seconds.
Heaps would see playing time toward the end of the season when Nelson sustained two fractured ribs against Idaho, but coach Bronco Mendenhall made it clear Nelson was the starter upon his return; after today, there shouldn’t be any issues about who will be starting for BYU in 2012, either.