- Associated Press - Friday, December 30, 2011

DALLAS — Riley Nelson hurriedly led BYU 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 with 11 seconds left to give the Cougars a 24-21 victory over Tulsa on Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl and another 10-win season.

“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,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said, smiling. “To have a quarterback in that situation fake spike it on his own and throw a touchdown and be on the same page with the receiver, that’s the kind of magic of the guys that I get to coach.”

The Cougars (10-3) wrapped up their season of independence by winning 10 games for the fifth time in Mendenhall’s seven years. They won nine of their last 10 games after consecutive losses in September.


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.

Out of timeouts at the 2 with the clock still running, Nelson decided to go with a play that the Cougars hadn’t practiced in about two months. And one he remembered seeing Dan Marino pull off when he was watching the NFL as a kid.

“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.”

Hoffman stood upright on the far right side waiting for the snap, then took a few steps into the end zone and turned around to make his third TD catch of the game.

“We really had faith in one another,” said Hoffman, who had eight catches for 122 yards.

During the recent frenzy of conference realignment, BYU opted to become a football independent this season after its departure from the Mountain West. There are no immediate plans to get back in another league.

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.

Tulsa, whose other four losses this season came against top-10 teams, failed to take advantage when BYU was penalized for running into the punter 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 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 lost his helmet on the play, retreated for a crushing block that flattened pursuing 275-pound defensive end Cory Dorris.

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