(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Postgame notes and quotes from BYU's 24-21 win over Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
BYU finished with a 10-3 record this season, its fifth 10-win season in the last six years, a feat duplicated only one other time in program history from 1980-85.
BOWL WIN STREAK
BYU won its third bowl game in a row for the first time in program history, doing so in three consecutive years and in three different bowl games.
Cody Hoffman’s three receiving touchdowns set an Armed Forces Bowl record and tied a BYU bowl record originally set by Clay Brown in the 1980 Holiday bowl against SMU and then tied last year by Hoffman in the New Mexico Bowl. Hoffman’s six TDs is also a BYU career bowl record.
Sophomore Cody Hoffman tallied three touchdowns, eight receptions and 122 yards, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and sixth of his career. Hoffman’s first-ever game with 100+ receiving yards came in last year’s New Mexico Bowl when he finished with 137 yards on eight receptions with three touchdowns.
On his second of three kick returns on the day, Cody Hoffman broke the BYU record for most kickoff return yards in a season. Hoffman finished the day with 41 kick return yards, giving him 879 yards on the season. Mike Rigell (1998, 00-01) previously held the record with 838 yards in a season.
Hoffman also set a new BYU record for most kick returns in a season on his return to open the second half. The sophomore finishes the year with 36 returns, one more than O’Neill Chambers 35 returns in 2008.
Hoffman totaled 163 all-purpose yards for the game, moving him from 8th to 6th on the BYU single season all-purpose yards list with 1,825 yards.
KICKING TO HISTORY
Sophomore kicker Justin Sorensen went 48 of 48 on PAT attempts this season, the most PATs made in a season without a miss in BYU history.
Riley Nelson found Cody Hoffman for the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left in the game, the second time the Cougars have scored a game-winner with 11 ticks left on the clock after Nelson’s pass to Marcus Mathews defeated Utah State earlier this year.
BYU has held its opponents to 14 points or fewer in the first half in 12 of 13 games this season. Tulsa had 14 points in the first half.
STUFF THE RUN
The Cougar defense held Tulsa to just 37 yards rushing for the game, 168 yards below its season average. It’s the eighth time in 13 games a BYU opponent has been held below 100 yards rushing.
Playing in his final game as a Cougar, senior OL Matt Reynolds, averaging 12 pancake blocks a game, laid down a block that helped lead to a BYU touchdown in the first half after losing his helmet earlier in the play. Following the play, “Matt Reynolds” began trending nationally on Twitter.
RUNNING OUT THE FLAG
BYU was led out of the tunnel today by junior Joe Sampson carrying the team flag and sophomore Spencer Hadley with the special teams flag. The special teams flag, highlighted by an old school BYU logo adopted by the special teams, is a new addition this season. Former Cougar and current Pittsburgh Steeler defensive lineman Chris Hoke (1997-00) carried out the alumni flag. Hoke, a 10-year NFL veteran with two Super Bowl rings, was an All-MWC and Academic All-MWC performer at BYU.
BYU POSTGAME QUOTES - Head coach Bronco Mendenhall with Cody Hoffman, Kyle Van Noy, Riley Nelson and Brandon Ogletree
COACH MENDENHALL: I was really pleased with the way our team battled, the grit, the determination, especially the second half. I think they played hungry. We have a strong reputation of when the games are close to find a way to win. That's about over a sevenâ€‘year period been established. I think they maintained their poise very well, our team. But before I go any further, we were absolutely treated first class and had a fantastic experience here at the Armed Forces Bowl. I don't think they could have done anything better.
We had a fantastic opponent to play, so the matchup was great, which also builds the intrigue to the game. As it was billed, there were two similar teams with a lot to play for. I have a lot of respect for Coach Blankenship and their team, the way their players handled themselves.
They played hard right to the end. It's fun to have something to play for and have it go right down to the end. Having said that, I still believe the reason we have success at BYU is the people I'm able to surround myself with, that's players and coaches. I consider that basically the secret to consistency. While we still have room to grow and improve, and we look forward to that, the future looks bright.
If you look with Cody and Kyle, these two have grown and matured a lot and have continued to produce on the field new and better ways each time we play. That's a great sign for our future.
I think that Riley battled. Nothing came easy for him today. Tulsa was able to get good pressure on him. 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.
To our 19 seniors, they've won a lot of football games at BYU. They've really given us a great foundation to move forward from. I expressed my thanks to them.
CODY HOFFMAN: It was a good time out here. They really treated us with a lot of hospitality.
Our preparation I felt was going right from our meetings to our practice, then the amount of time that coaches gave us to just hang out and do whatever we wanted, just enjoy ourselves. But when it came to game time, we transitioned into game mode, even though we started out somewhat slow. We went into halftime down a little bit, but that wasn't the first time that's happened to us. We really knew what we needed to do and really capitalized on our mistakes we made in the first half and came out strong in the second half. We were in that same situation earlier in the year with Utah State, 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.
KYLE VAN NOY: I'd just like to thank the bowl for a great experience. The crowd was tremendous. Tulsa, firstâ€‘class team all the way. Coaches did a great job with their players in prepping them.
It's been an honor to play with teammates like Cody and under a head coach who is probably the most underrated coach in all of college football, as well as a defensive mastermind. He makes the game so much easier for players. He makes it so simple and puts everybody in great positions. Everyone does their assignments most of the time (laughter). We make plays. It's just been an awesome experience to be at BYU. Wouldn't change it for anything. It was just a great game. Just happy to send the seniors off the right way with the win and happy to be a part of this and part of BYU.
Q. Coach, you mentioned that last play. Did you call him to do the fake?
COACH MENDENHALL: No, we called him to spike it. There is a play that we have, Red Alert, that he called on his own, which is fake spike it, then throw a touchdown â€‘ or he better throw a touchdown, put it that way (laughter). He did that completely on his own.
I do believe in the freedom of players, and I trust them to do what they think is right to help our team win. As Kyle was talking about defensively, there are chances players can take. I believe that they're prepared well enough to take chances and they better be right when they take them. I don't want them to play scared.
So to have a quarterback in that situation fake spike it on his own, throw a touchdown, be on the same page with the receiver, that's kind of the magic of the guys I get to coach.
Q. You held Tulsa to only 37 yards on 27 attempts. What was your plan for that? How did that happen?
KYLE VAN NOY: Practice (laughter).
COACH MENDENHALL: We have a fairly unique strategy when it comes to playing run defense and how we practice it. We don't think anyone can score enough points on us nor can they control the game without running the football. If they can't run it, it leads to having to throw the ball up. Tulsa made a couple plays in throwing it up. But that's hard to maintain consistently. So the emphasis from the beginning was to make sure they couldn't run it.
KYLE VAN NOY: We practice that day in and day out. I can't tell you how much you hear again when they get two yards, a yard, again, they get another yard. So it goes to practice and it shows up in the game. Got to give props to our Dâ€‘line who played phenomenal. They don't get much love, but they played a great game on the interior.
Q. Cody, could you have imagined a better way to end your season?
CODY HOFFMAN: I definitely couldn't. I just got to thank the team for willing to compete and giving me the opportunity to be out there and make the plays that I do.
Me and Riley have a lot of chemistry. I think it started with us living together last year. We know what we're going to do. He just makes plays on his own. Once he gets out of the pocket, anybody's fair game. He just found me a couple times, and one linked up for a touchdown.
Q. Kyle, you had a sequence where Tulsa after an interception moved the ball into the red zone, was attacking. They ended up missing. That turned out to be big. What do you remember from that sequence and how were you able to be so successful in that particular time frame?
KYLE VAN NOY: I think it's pretty lucky. He puts me in spots to make plays. Luckily he gives me some freedom like he was talking about earlier. The other players do their job, and it helps me to be free. It's just fun to be out there and make plays like that. I don't even remember 'cause I was so nerveâ€‘wracking for the end of the game. To help my team out to win, that's all that matters. We're in this together. It's not me personally or Cody, it's the team.
Q. Coach, you talked about the run defense already. The mobility of Tulsa's quarterback, he gained 24 yards but lost 24 yards, which was zero. What was your game plan for him and was he a priority?
COACH MENDENHALL: He was 'the' priority. We knew he was part of the running game. When you consider a mobile quarterback, they cause many defenses fits because most plans don't account for a mobile quarterback and it leads to leaving your Dâ€‘line responsible for that, which that's a matchup not in our favor.
The other thing, we broke it down to five of the most relevant games we thought we would use to formulate our plans. He had only been sacked three times in those five games. Kyle was a huge part of this. If we could make him move, make him move into a similar or a more agile athlete, that would then shift to our favor.
We didn't think he could score enough points by running the zone read play. He got a few yards on that. But we thought if we played good run defense, the zone defense was taken away, he'd have to throw it. We thought we could chase him around and sack him. He was the priority because I believe he's the best player on their team.
Q. Going to your quarterback, he didn't run for a lot of yards today, but he did when it counted. It feels odd to say a BYU quarterback beat somebody running.
COACH MENDENHALL: Riley helps our team win just by competing. The most memorable play to me was the one where he's scrambling, throws it I believe to Cody, and Matt Reynolds without his helmet peels back and hits somebody. That would be the play to summarize the game.
Riley also struggled with some errant throws. But when it comes down to it and he needed to make plays, he helped our team win. That resolve, that determine, is how all these guys train. It's what we ask, it's what we expect, and it's fun to see. A quarterback that can run and get loose on occasion. There was a critical I think fourth down at the end where he scrambled. That was every bit if not more so important than the last play of the game. It's just fun to watch these guys try hard. Both Cody and Kyle do as well as the rest of the team.
Q. You elected to punt, Riley pinned them on the one. Can you talk about why you made that decision?
COACH MENDENHALL: There was enough time left and we were playing good defense. The way we had been punting the ball the entire game, we had field position and were earning field position the entire time. I had complete confidence we would stop them, which we did. Unfortunately roughed the punter, but then we stopped them again.
Then they chose to punt or had to punt, and the ball wasn't going to get much past the 50. I believed there was going to be enough time left, after we held them, which I believed we would, to give us a chance to score. Rather than risk a field goal, a long field goal, or a fourthâ€‘andâ€‘eight when time really didn't dictate that, it just seemed to be the right thing to do.
Man, I thought our punter and our punt coverage was on the money. Caused a turnover as well. In a close game, the statistics are fairly close, but that was the difference, in my opinion, was the punting game.
Q. Coach, first year of independence. How important was it for you to get a signature win in this first year on your own?
COACH MENDENHALL: I think it was fantastic and I think it was just one of many more to come. We've won 10 games now as a conference member. Now we've won 10 games as a nonâ€‘conference member. We'll keep winning games no matter if someone wants us in or wants us out. It's just who our team is. ESPN certainly recognizes that, and I think a number of people that have had a chance to see us play recognize that. I think this is just the beginning.
But to be able to win the last game of the year, after having done both, but this is five wins in seven bowl games, it's not just going to the games, it's winning the game, and that's the new tradition that we're embracing at BYU and it matters a lot to us.
Q. Coach, how critical was that muffed punt going into halftime? That Red Alert call, is that generally left to the discretion of the quarterback?
COACH MENDENHALL: It's usually not. But some cases it is. The muffed punt, again, there's two ways to look at it, and Tulsa has a good football team. But sometimes mistakes are forced. The coverage was in the returner's face. It was a great punt with excellent hang time. So rather than maybe focusing on Tulsa's mistake, I think it was us executing at a really high level and doing what we were supposed to do.
But the result of that gave us some momentum because we hadn't generated much offense in the first half. Even though we hadn't generated much, we only went into halftime 14â€‘10 and we knew we could play better, so that put us at least within range.
BRANDON OGLETREE: Yeah, I mean, we knew it was going to be a close game. They were a really good team. We respected them a lot after watching them on film.
Coach was telling us all week, the team that was hungrier was going to win. I think they came out hungrier in the first half. But we came out the second half and got the W.
RILEY NELSON: I have to give credit to the special teams that kept us in it. BYU is known for keeping control and taking big leads. Weren't able to do that today. Can't tell you exactly why. Seemed like we couldn't get the ball rolling for some reason. Got to credit them. I was getting hit on my third step into my drop. They were doing a good job with the rush. Wasn't that our Oâ€‘line was playing bad either, those guys did a good job, had a good game plan.
I will say, happy with the win. Even though we didn't take control of the game and get a lead like we hoped, when you have the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win it, you want to come through and you have to come through. You owe it to your teammates to win it.
Like Tree said, they maybe came out hungrier. We stepped up and played hard. Riley Stephenson, of eight punts, he pinned them inside the 20 seven times. A special shout out to Cody Hoffman. He's a special player, love having him on my team, love being able to throw to him.
Q. Riley, could you take us back to the final drive, the mindset of what you were thinking, what you were telling your teammates.
RILEY NELSON: I wasn't really telling them much other than just kind of clock management stuff. I think we had a little under four minutes when we got the ball back. We had good field position. We were in no hurry. We had timeouts. We were on our side of the 50, thanks to a great play by J.D.
That's kind of all we were saying. Took a couple shots that weren't there. Credit them to that. But, man, talk about our seniors. Bryan Kariya and especially J.J. We were having a hard time running the ball in the interior. Cody and Marcus. Kind of like Utah State, everybody watches the movie and thinks the quarterback steps in there and gives a big speech. You're just reminding everybody what needs to be done, clock management, ball security, maintain consistency.
Q. Your most successful run came on that series when you went down the middle. Was that just determination?
RILEY NELSON: They were doing a good job. I mentioned earlier I was getting hit a lot. They were doing a good job mixing up pressure as far as bringing the passâ€‘rush from the second level, slanting with their defensive line, bringing linebackers and kind of confusing us up front.
What they did in that last drive, at least to me it seemed, I'll have to watch the film to be sure, it seemed like they were bringing a rush with their front four and dropping everybody else back into pass coverage. We were attacking the middle of the field with Cody from that weak side and they felt threatened by that. I felt like they had to bail out of that.
That's the biggest change I noticed. It seemed like your more traditional format passâ€‘rush, which is easier for our Oâ€‘line to sort out and easier for myself to find run lanes. They just didn't want to get beat down the field. I hadn't been successful running the ball up until that point. Make me earn it with my feet. We were fortunate enough to get past the sticks on a couple key downs.
Q. Riley, can you tell us about that last play with that fake spike for the touchdown, what was going through your head there.
RILEY NELSON: Well, when I was little I always used to watch NFL films hours and hours on end. I used to stay up late watching them, make my mama mad. I vividly remember Dan Marino doing that. I don't know if it was a playoff game or whatever it was. I can see him doing that.
His throw was a lot more impressive obviously because he's Dan Marino. His was from a lot farther out. We'd seen that. That was something we practiced. We had a signal for it. We hadn't practiced it in a couple months, but we had it in our bag of tricks.
Stopped the clock about 12 seconds left on the first down, which is enough time to get two, maybe if we're lucky, three shots of throwing it into the end zone. But I saw that. As our guys hustled to the ball, their guys kind of stood up. We were yelling clock, everyone was making the sign. I looked at the clock. I thought, I can be quick with this, get it off, give us enough time for two plays. I yelled to our outside guys the call and gave them the signal and we ran it.
The corner, Cody's stance was not a receiver's stance at all. He was standing there waiting for it to get hiked. When Cody took off, the first thing the corner did was sprint back to not get beat on a fade. I had Cody's eyes. He stopped. I was able to put the ball back shoulder. Great play by him. I can't tell you how proud I am of him and the way he played today. This ballgame would have been a lot different story if it weren't for him and his tough play.
Q. Riley, that first half you weren't moving the ball very well. Got big special teams play. Talk about how important it was to get a turnover, put yourself in position to score that touchdown right at the end of the half.
RILEY NELSON: Man, if your special teams are going to give you a gift like that, you have to capitalize. Like I said, if you're not putting drives together, you got to find a way. Myself included. We got a little bit spoiled this year because we were able to mount 70, 80â€‘yard drives time and time again. Tulsa did a good job of limiting that. Reading some pregame comments, that was their plan, to make us put together big, long drives against them while they were going to bring some pressure.
But, yeah, our special teams kept us in it, especially our punt team. I mean, geez, seven punts inside the 20, then they recovered that one before the half to go in and score. That made all the difference in the world.
Q. (No microphone.)
RILEY NELSON: Yeah, without his helmet on. I mean, there you go. There's Matt Reynolds. That boy is going to play in the NFL for a long time. That's why. Not only does he possess the body, physique, he makes plays like that. He freed me to get to the edge. It allowed me to stop on the sideline and survey the field for a little bit longer. I was able to find Cody. Again, Cody battled to get that ball across the line.
Q. Riley, coach said that he sent a signal to spike the ball, and the rest was all on you. You called your own signal there. He said if you're going to do that you better score. Any thought on your part, I better not botch this?
RILEY NELSON: No, I don't think that way. I probably should, but I don't. It will probably get me in trouble later on down the line (laughter). But, you know, I don't think that way. That's why they pay the coaches the big bucks to make the tough decisions.
But at the end of the day I'm the one with the ball in my hand. If I would have thrown a pick, I would have taken full responsibility. Coach Mendenhall would have shouldered that responsibility and probably never let it out. But, hey, our knucklehead quarterback made a poor decision.
But, man, that's the way I play the game. Coaches coach and players play. I kind of felt it inside. I felt it was a highâ€‘reward, lowâ€‘risk play. If it's not there, I can throw it out of the back of the end zone and we still have some time to make some plays.
It was on me. I look like the hero. But it very easily could have been me and I'd have been the goat. I've been the goat before. That's what happens when you're the quarterback.
Q. Brandon, they got the majority of their yards on the three scoring drives. They had a whole bunch of threeâ€‘andâ€‘outs. What was going on with the defense there that you were able to stop them?
BRANDON OGLETREE: I mean, it gives you a ton of time to prepare for a bowl game, mentally and physically for the team you are about to play. We felt like we had plenty of time to figure out the run plays they were going to use. Looking at the stat sheet, I mean, 27 rushes, phenomenal job by our front seven because they've been pretty explosive. I think they've gone for over 200 a game usually rushing yards. So that was a huge part of their offense I think we took away.
You know, on the scoring drives, we felt it was just a few miscommunications, a few guys out of position at key moments. So we never really lost confidence just 'cause we felt like we had a really good idea of what they were doing. We regrouped at halftime. I think we came out and played a lot better in the second half.
Q. Talk a little bit about how this win, with all the guys you have coming back for next year, springboards you into next year.
BRANDON OGLETREE: It's exciting, man. I think what we have on this team is some phenomenal team chemistry. I think guys really love each other and sacrifice for each other. To know that we have so many guys coming back for next season, I'm excited. I don't know if it's possible, but it makes you kind of excited for winter workouts and spring ball. Man, let's just get going. That's what I feel like.
RILEY NELSON: Moving forward, we have heart and a neverâ€‘quit attitude. Moving forward I'd much rather have that than sitting here at the end of the season saying, Man, all the talent in the world, but just couldn't quite come together in those close games.
We come together in those close games. The more experience we gain, the more rest we get, the more practice we get, I'm very encouraged and very excited heading into our winter workouts. The most successful teams in college football are seniorâ€‘laden. If you look at us, we're going to be juniors and seniors. A lot of guys that have experience and have been around the block. That's exciting. We have that chemistry. We love the battle and the fight, not just on the field, but off the field. The fight, winter conditioning, Coach Mendenhall's workouts are tough. Working out when you don't want to work out, staying that extra 20 minutes for film. We have that foundation to build on.
Our talent and skill level will keep increasing as we keep practicing. So moving forward, I'm very excited. I know our team is very excited. But sending our seniors off the right way, those guys accomplished something very unique in college football, three out of four bowl wins, three out of four 10â€‘win seasons. Tomorrow when we wake up, back to the grind, reach our potential and be the team we can be next year.