BYU football: Riley Nelson sparks Cougars to comeback victory in Armed Forces Bowl
Nelson comes through in crunch time
Nelson completed only 17-of-40 passes for 250 yards and two interceptions to go along with three touchdowns. He rushed 13 times for 25 yards.
"I think Riley battled. Nothing came easy for him today," said Mendenhall. "Tulsa was able to get good pressure on him and they hit him a lot. They played our run game effectively. There were a number of errant throws. Yet when it came down to driving the team to win the game, including the instructions to down a ball, he fake downs it and throws a touchdown, he just wasn't going to be denied helping our team win. That's who he is. I was really impressed."
BYU's defense was also impressive. After surrendering a touchdown on Tulsa's opening drive, the Cougars clamped down on the Golden Hurricane, allowing just 37 yards rushing. They limited senior quarterback G.J. Kinne to 214 yards passing, though he did throw for three touchdowns.
"The biggest thing I think is we couldn't win on first down enough," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said of his team's inability to pick up yardage early in its possessions. "We certainly fell on the wrong side of it at the end. We just came up a little short today."
With the win, BYU (10-3) reached double-digit victories in its first season of independence and won three straight bowl games for the first time in school history.
The loss snapped a three-game bowl winning streak for Tulsa (8-5).
The Cougar defense held the Golden Hurricane with a little more than four minutes remaining in the game, giving the offense one last chance to pull out a win. BYU took over after a 22-yard punt return by J.D. Falslev, putting the ball at the Tulsa 48-yard line, trailing 21-17.
"We were in that same situation earlier in the year with Utah State," said Hoffman. "We needed a touchdown to win. So we all had great composure and we really had faith in one another and scored and came out on top. … We kept positive the whole time. We knew that Riley's a good leader and has what it takes to win. That's what we just kept doing. We stayed behind him and he stayed behind us. Our defense helped us with the big plays that they made."
On that drive, BYU faced a fourth-and-9 with just under three minutes when Nelson tucked the ball and gained 14 yards and a first down. Then Nelson and the offense kept making plays, marching the Cougars to the 2-yard line in the waning seconds.
"We've had a lot of great games, a lot of great finishes," said senior left tackle Matt Reynolds. "This one is definitely going to be unforgettable."
Reynolds said he had no doubts that the final drive would result in a touchdown.
"I've played in too many games that have been close that have come down to the last play to think that it's over. We knew going in that until that clock hit zero, we had a chance."
For Reynolds, it was an amazing way to close out his collegiate career.
"It really is a great feeling," he said. "It's a great way to end a season and end a career. Anytime you can win like that, it's a really huge deal."
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