Tulsa loses Armed Forces Bowl 24-21 to BYU
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
DALLAS (AP) G.J. Kinne tried to put into perspective all the positive things that happened during this senior season at Tulsa.
Except the ending really hurts.
"We had a lot of adversity early in the season. ... For us to rattle off some big wins, get to a bowl, I think that was a great accomplishment for us this year," Kinne said. "It was tough to end this way."
Kinne threw three touchdown passes in his final game, but BYU scored after a fake spike with 11 seconds left Friday for a 24-21 win in the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Golden Hurricane (8-5) had won seven games in a row before a loss in their regular-season finale against then-undefeated Houston just more than a month ago with a spot in the Conference USA championship game on the line. Then they finished with a season-low 272 yards in losing their first bowl game in five years.
While Kinne described himself as still being in shock after his 38th consecutive start, first-year coach Bill Blakenship expressed how he felt about his team, whose other four losses this season were against top-10 teams.
"I told them I loved them. I thanked them. This has been an incredible run. These guys endured a lot of adversity," Blakenship said. "They never, never flinched. These guys never, never looked for a way out. They just kept finding a way to fight back, and we did it all year. I'm very, very proud of them.
BYU (10-3) was out of timeouts and at the 2 when quarterback Riley Nelson hurriedly led his team to the line with a call from the sideline to spike the ball and stop the clock.
Instead, Nelson faked the spike and then threw his third touchdown pass to Cody Hoffman, giving the independent Cougars their fifth 10-win season in coach Bronco Mendenhall's seven years.
"There is a play we have, red alert, that he called on his own, which is a fake spike and then throw a touchdown, or you better throw a touchdown," Mendenhall said.
BYU, which won nine of its last 10 games after consecutive losses in September, 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. Then he called the play the Cougars hadn't practiced in about two months.
"As our guys hustled to the ball, their guys kind of stood up because we were yelling `Clock it!'" Riley said.
Tulsa defensive back Dexter McCoil, who had two interceptions and a third nullified by a penalty, admitted that "they caught us by surprise. They caught everybody by surprise."
Kinne, whose 81 career TD passes fell two short of the school record, was 17 for 31 for 214 yards. He had put Tulsa ahead 21-17 with a 30-yard TD to Bryan Burnham with 10:42 left.
But the Golden Hurricane failed to take advantage when BYU was penalized for running into the punter on fourth down from the 10 with about 6 minutes left. They punted the ball away four plays later, setting up the winning drive for the Cougars.
Hoffman got his first TD just before halftime, a 17-yarder to cut Tulsa's lead to 14-10, 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 lost his helmet on the play, retreated for a crushing block that flattened pursuing 275-pound defensive end Cory Dorris.
Long snapper Reed Hornung set up that score with a hustle play on special teams. The 249-pound Hornung scampered down the field to hit J.D. Ratliff at the end of a 41-yard punt, forcing a fumble that was recovered by BYU's David Foote.
Tulsa had won three consecutive bowl games since losing 25-13 to Utah in the Armed Forces Bowl five years ago.
The Cougars went in front for the first time on Hoffman's 30-yard TD catch with 1:41 left in the third quarter. Hoffman helped set up his score when he reached up in traffic for a 20-yard catch on third-and-10 earlier in the nine-play, 71-yard drive.
Tulsa's Kevin Fitzpatrick was wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt earlier in the period. The Golden Hurricane had gone from first down at the BYU 14 to fourth-and-25 after linebacker Kyle Van Noy tackled running back Ja'Terian Douglas for a 6-yard loss, then sacked Kinne on the next play.
Tulsa opened the game with an 11-play, 76-yard drive. Kinne finished it in style, scrambling to the left to avoid defenders before hitting Ricky Johnson in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.
Kinne also threw a 14-yard pass to Clay Sears for a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. Kinne set up the score with a 55-yard pass to Burnham.
The Armed Forces Bowl plans to return to the TCU campus next year for its 10th annual game. The Fort Worth-based bowl was played from 2003-09 at Amon G. Carter Stadium, which has been undergoing a $164 million renovation that will be completed before the 2012 season.
Updated December 30, 2011