2011 Armed Forces - BYU 24, Tulsa 21

Posted Dec 30, 2011

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Bell Helicopters Armed Forces Bowl

2011 Armed Forces

BYU 24, Tulsa 21

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
41st Total Offense 23rd
17th Total Defense 90th
41st Scoring Offense 23rd
23rd Scoring Defense 68th
52nd Rushing Offense 24th
21st Run Defense 37th
46th Passing Offense 40th
29th Passing Defense 118th
74th Turnover Margin 96th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
B   T
3.5 Quarterbacks 4.5
3.5 RBs 4
Receivers 4
3.5 O Line 4
3.5 D Line 3
3.5 Linebackers 3
4.5 Secondary 2
4 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 3
BYU 24 … Tulsa 21
- CFN Thoughts on the Game

BYU: The Cougars held Tulsa to 272 yards of total offense. … Riley Nelson completed 17-of-40 passes for 250 yards and three scores with two picks. … J.J. Di Luigi ran ten times for 38 yards. … Cody Hoffman caught eight passes for 122 yards and three scores. …. Punter Riley Stephenson averaged 41.9 yards per kick putting seven of eight inside the 20. … LB Kyle Van Noy made ten tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane ran for 37 yards. … G.J. Kinne completed 17-of-31 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns … Trey Watts ran ten times for 38 yards. … Bryan Burnham caught four passes for 113 yards and a score. … Curnelius Arnick made 17 tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss. … Shawn Jackson made nine tackles with three tackles for loss.

DALLAS (AP) -- Riley Nelson threw three touchdown passes to Cody Hoffman, the last with 11 seconds left, and BYU beat Tulsa 24-21 Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl for another 10-win season.

With no timeouts and the ball at the 2, the Cougars hurried up to the line. Nelson then faked a spike that would have stopped the clock and instead stood up and threw to Hoffman in the end zone.

The Cougars (10-3) wrapped up their season of independence by winning 10 games for the fifth time in coach Bronco Mendenhall's seven years.

G.J. Kinne threw three TD passes for Tulsa (8-5), including a 30-yarder to Bryan Burnham with 10:42 left for a 21-17 lead.

BYU needed 12 plays to go 48 yards on its last drive. Nelson converted a fourth-and-9 with a 14-yard scramble and later ran 8 yards on third-and-5.

Tulsa, whose other four losses this season came against top-10 teams, failed to take advantage when BYU was penalized for running into the kicker on fourth down from the 10 with about 6 minutes left. But the Golden Hurricane punted the ball away four plays later, setting up the winning drive for the Cougars.

Hoffman, who had eight catches for 122 yards, got his first TD just before halftime after an impressive block gave Nelson time to throw the ball.

Nelson was scrambling to his left to avoid pressure and threw back toward the middle of the field after 305-pound offensive tackle Matt Reynolds, who had already lost his helmet on the play, retreated for a crushing block that flattened pursuing 275-pound defensive end Cory Dorris.

Hoffman made the catch, then lunged forward with the ball in his stretched-out hand out for the 17-yard score that cut Tulsa's lead to 14-10.

BYU (9-3) vs. Tulsa (8-4) Dec. 30, 12:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … BYU and Tulsa are clamoring for their first quality win of 2011. Winning this year's Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas just might qualify.

While the records of both schools are respectable, peeling the onion reveals a disturbing trend of bullying weaklings, yet failing to show up versus the quality opponents on the schedule. To their credit, though, the Cougars did get off the mat from one of the worst losses in school history to cobble together a solid, potentially 10-win campaign. A week after squandering a 13-0 lead to Texas in Austin, they were obliterated in Provo, 54-10, by Holy War rival Utah. It was at that low-point that the program could have gone in one of two disparate directions. BYU chose the high road, winning eight of the final nine games, with the lone loss coming versus Mountain West champion TCU.

BYU began the season as an Independent. It still has no conference affiliation, but not from a lack of trying. The institution was linked to rumors regarding the Big 12 and the Big East, which would have improved future bowl opportunities, but both negotiations fell through because of a disagreement on TV rights. Hey, there's still plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. Steady seventh-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall hasn't been lured away by another AD, and at least the season won't end in Nevada. The Cougars get to spread their brand to a new part of the country after appearing in five of the last six Las Vegas Bowls.

Tulsa, in many ways, has been Conference USA's version of BYU in 2011. Sure, the Golden Hurricane overcame a rocky start by winning seven of its final eight games, but what do we really know about the team? It feasted on the softest part of the schedule, yet lost by no fewer than 20 points in non-conference matchups with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State. Even worse, when the league's West Division hung in the balance, it was unable to run with Houston, 48-16, a school that would be exposed by Southern Miss just eight days later.

Lost opportunities aside, Bill Blankenship has to feel pretty good about how his first season as the Hurricane head coach has unfolded. His offense overcame the preseason suspension of top playmaker Damaris Johnson to finish the regular season 24th nationally, and his D did just enough to support a seven-game winning streak that began Oct. 1 and ended Nov. 25. The coach and his staff helped guide Tulsa to no less than eight victories for the sixth season in the last seven years. Now all they need is an exclamation point, beating a good BYU squad for the school's fourth postseason triumph in-a-row.

Players to Watch: Jake Heaps began the year as the franchise quarterback in Provo. He concluded it as a former Cougar after spending much of the season holding a clipboard. The one-time can't-miss recruit played poorly in September, opening the door for junior Riley Nelson to take the reins. The former Utah State transfer did his best Steve Young impersonation for a little more than half a season, scrambling for 376 yards, and flipping 16 touchdown passes off his left arm. He'll employ a talented corps of young receivers to exploit the Tulsa secondary. Sophomore Cody Hoffman and rookie Ross Apo, in particular, have the size and skills to cause fits for the Tulsa secondary.

While Riley has been sharp behind center this year, the Golden Hurricane will still hold an edge at quarterback in this game. Senior G.J. Kinne has been the face of the program since transferring over from Texas prior to the 2009 season. He's a terrific leader in the huddle, and has accounted for 93 career touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards with his feet. Even without the services of Johnson, his supporting cast has been effective and eclectic. Backs Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas have each run for more than 800 yards. And Kinne's favorite targets, WR Bryan Burnham, H-back Willie Carter and TE Clay Sears, will create matchup problems on intermediate routes with their size.

The Cougars defender most likely to become a spoke in the Hurricane's offensive wheel is LB Kyle Van Noy. Just a sophomore, he's a very special athlete at 6-3 and 235 pounds. Though physically built for the second level of the D, he plays the game with all of the range and quickness of a super-sized safety. He's frenetic, explosive and prone to lighting up unsuspecting opponents, both in run defense and when dropping back into coverage. After making 58 tackles, 10 stops for loss, five sacks and three sacks, he's deserving of the kind of postseason accolades that escape kids from Independent programs.

Tulsa's most valuable players on defense reside in the back seven. The Golden Hurricanes aim to put athletes on the field, where they can be coached into playmaking defenders. Linebackers Curnelius Arnick and Shawn Jackson, and safeties Dexter McCoil and Marco Nelson can cover a lot of the field in an effort to make stops for minus yards, and get their hands on the ball. This group will give up the occasional big play, but compensates with momentum-changers of its own. The linebackers will be asked to monitor Nelson at all times, both when he sets his feet in the pocket, and when he exits it.

BYU will win if … Nelson is successful through the air against the nation's 118th-ranked pass defense.

When Cougars quarterbacks have thrown at least two touchdown passes in a game this year, the team has gone 7-0. It'll be up to the southpaw to add another chapter to that trend by picking apart a vulnerable Tulsa defensive backfield. BYU's passing attack has come a long way since September, producing 22 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions over the last eight games. The Golden Hurricane will move the ball, putting the onus on No. 13 to keep his team from falling behind. The passer must maximize the talents of Hoffman and Apo on the outside, which could create a little more space for the backs. The Cougars haven't had a 100-yard rusher all year, but that won't keep them from trying to get versatile JJ Di Luigi and former LB Michael Alisa into the mix.

Tulsa will win if … it doesn't require much assistance from PK Kevin Fitzpatrick.

The Golden Hurricane has scored plenty of points this season, but it could have been even more potent if it executed better in enemy territory. The team ranks 76th in the country in red zone touchdowns, and will be severely challenged to improve upon that ranking at Ford Stadium. You see, only Alabama and Miami have been stingier with its back against the wall than BYU. The Cougars have yielded just 14 touchdowns in 33 red zone trips to rank No. 3 nationally in the category. It'll be incumbent upon Kinne and his diverse collection of skill position players to put a dent in the Cougars' defense. That could mean a greater reliance on sizable receiving targets, like Sears and Carter, or more chances for 250-pound RB Alex Singleton to churn his powerful legs close to the goal line.

What Will Happen: Someone is going to pick up a much-needed quality win in this year's Armed Forces Bowl. And that someone will be BYU.

These are two very similar programs squaring off in a toss-up game that could go in either direction. Tulsa has an edge on offense, but BYU boasts the better D, which will be the difference in Dallas. Mendenhall has quietly done a very nice job with his defense, molding a unit that's giving up only 20 points and 316 yards a game. Heck, even when the Cougars were yielding an uncommon number of points, such as in the Utah blowout, turnovers were a bigger culprit than the play of the defenders. They'll surprise Tulsa with their front line size and strength, and their quickness in the back eight. You can bank on this matchup using all 60 minutes before deciding a winner, with BYU needing a late stop to preserve the victory.

CFN Prediction: BYU 28 … Tulsa 24
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: BYU -3   O/U: 55.5
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BYU has become AWESOME in bowl games under Bronco Mendenhall, winning four of its last five. The 55.5 over/under is a gift from the gods. This could be 45-41 without breathing hard.
By Richard Cirminiello 
After going into college football's witness protection program following a 54-10 loss to Utah on Sept. 17, BYU quietly rallied for eight wins in its final nine games.

By Matt Zemek
Tulsa got manhandled by Houston. Will it respond with a tougher, bolder performance against a BYU team whose 9-3 record is not reflective of a well-above-average identity?

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Tulsa's offense is always fun to watch, and it gets a big time challenge with BYU's underrated defense.

By Russ Mitchell
You can neither drink nor smoke at Brigham Young - so no one is getting high. This is a bowl sponsored by a helicopter manufacturer. Can there be a bigger omen? Go with Tulsa.

By Terry Johnson
BYU faces Tulsa in a sharp contrast of styles. How will the Cougar run defense (ranked 21st nationally) fare against a Golden Hurricane ground game that averages 5.0 yards per carry?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Amazingly, all four losses for Tulsa were against top ten teams at the time. BYU should provide the challenge of losing to an unranked team.
Best Bowl Moments
Best Cougar Bowl Moment: From 1978 to 1984, BYU and the Holiday Bowl were synonymous with the magic and excitement of the postseason. That was never truer than in 1980, when Jim McMahon and the high-voltage Cougars engineered an incredible comeback for the school's first bowl triumph. Trailing SMU 38-19 at the start of the fourth quarter, BYU stormed back, pulling out a miraculous win when McMahon connected with tight end Clay Brown from 41 yards out as time expired.

Best Golden Hurricane Bowl Moment: Tulsa's most impressive postseason win came more than 65 years ago, when the Hurricane swooped into Miami and used seven takeaways to upset Georgia Tech in the 1945 Orange Bowl. This generation, however, will have none of it. A younger set of Tulsa fans would point to a dramatic come-from-behind win over Fresno State in the 2005 Liberty Bowl that capped a stunning turnaround for the program. Other Golden Hurricane fans under 30 would cite a 63-7 rout of Bowling Green at the end of the 2007 season in the GMAC Bowl.

Alamo Bowl History
2010 Army 16, SMU 14
2009 Air Force 47, Houston 20
2008 Houston 34, Air Force 28
2007 California 42, Air Force 36
2006 Utah 25, Tulsa 13
2005 Kansas 42, Houston 13
2004 Cincinnati 32, Marshall 14
2003 Boise State 34, TCU 31

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