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.
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury