The Armed Forces Bowl: One Last Chance For Redemption

The Brigham Young Cougars (9-3) have one last chance to prove their worth in the Armed Forces Bowl against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (8-4). Win and the Cougars can make a claim to join the national rankings.

All four of Tulsa’s losses have come to teams ranked in the top 25. None of those losses have been by less than 20 points. If BYU is really a top 25 team, as head coach Bronco Mendenhall has said and even voted for in his USA Today ballot, then not only should BYU win, it should win comfortably.

Tulsa has a powerful, balanced offense averaging over 450 yards per game (249.8 pass, 204.6 rush). They are led by a very experienced quarterback G.J. Kinne who has started every game for the last three years. He throws the ball well and can tuck it and run (405 yards).

Kinne is joined on offense by several other weapons. Six Tulsa players have a reception for over 40 yards this season. Both Willie Carter and Bryan Burnham have at least 50 receptions, over 700 yards receiving, and at least seven touchdowns this year. Corby Eason and Preston Hadley both have to play well.

Running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Johnson have each cracked 800 yards rushing this year. Watts averages 5.7 yards per carry and Johnson an astounding 8.2. Tulsa's top three running backs have runs longer than 45 yards. None of BYU's top four running backs have a run that long.

BYU and Tulsa have one common opponent: UCF. The final score in each game was an identical 24-17. However, it may be important to note that the BYU offense was struggling mightily when it faced UCF in September, but the Tulsa offense had scored 37 points or more in the four games leading up to the UCF game. The point being, BYU has probably improved more than Tulsa has improved since beating UCF, which would favor BYU in the bowl game.

The keys to the game for BYU will be to score points on offense and force turnovers on defense, particularly interceptions. Tulsa had three or more turnovers in each of their four losses (16 total), and two or more interceptions in each loss (12 total). BYU also needs to be prepared for Tulsa to start the game with lots of emotion wanting to earn its first quality win of the season, as well.

Things to watch for:
  1. Jake Heaps’ Absence. What will be the impact, if any, of Jake Heaps transferring? Was he really causing a division among the team that was holding it back? Will Riley Nelson get knocked out of the game, and put James Lark on the spot?
  2. Another career passing day? Nelson had the best passing game of his career (363 yards) in his last game at Hawaii. The last time BYU played Tulsa, Max Hall had 537 yards passing. The year before that, John Beck's pass efficiency was through the roof against Tulsa. This year, Houston QB Case Keenum had 457 yards passing, Oklahoma QB Landry Jones had 375 yards, and Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden had 369 yards against Tulsa.
  3. Who will step up? Running back Michael Alisa has suffered an ankle injury. Which running back will provide the punch that will be missing? Will J.J. Di Luigi and Bryan Kariya split the load? Will Joshua Quezada, in a twist of irony, surprise everyone and have his best game of the season?
  4. Record Tracker. Cody Hoffman needs just 28 yards on a kickoff return to become the new BYU record holder for most kickoff return yards in a single season.
All-time series: BYU leads 6-1
Last: Tulsa won 55-47 (2007)
Streak: Tulsa won 1

TIME: 10:00 AM (Mountain Time)
Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM Channel 143,

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