After the Tulsa offense marched downfield for a touchdown on its first possession, the Cougar defense tightened up just enough, allowing gritty Riley Nelson and the Cougar offense to make a dramatic comeback with 11 ticks left on the clock. Here is how the Cougars graded out.
Nelson struggled in a game where he was asked to throw the ball 40 times, which isn't exactly his strength. His 17 completions out of 40 attempts with two interceptions are plain ugly. Still, Nelson had 250 yards and three touchdowns, the last one coming with a gutsy heads-up play that won the game.
Wide receivers: A
McKay Jacobson had a nice game for his final appearance in a Cougar uniform, but the receiver the stole the show was sophomore Cody Hoffman, who hauled in 8 receptions for 122 yards and three touchdowns. This is the fifth game of the season that Hoffman racked up over 100 yards in receptions. The only receiver that failed to have a reception was Ross Apo.
Running backs: C
The Cougar backfield took a big hit with the loss of Michael Alisa to an ankle injury. The Cougars ran three different backs a total of 26 times for 89 yards, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Not exactly what you would expect from a backfield with two seniors playing in their last game as a Cougar.
Tight ends: B-
Not having a healthy, developed tight end group to help block and spread defenses out over the middle hurt the overall offensive performance. Still, Marcus Mathews was able to haul in two receptions for 34 yards, averaging 17 yards per catch. The limited involvement and opportunities from the tight end position makes it tough to grade. Still, Mathews made the most of his opportunities.
Offensive line: C
Once again the offensive line underperformed. Because of the fact that the offensive line is key for the success of other positions – which can also affect their grades – a lot of critical grading (both good and bad) is given to this unit. Nelson was harassed and sacked multiple times throughout the game. No dominance was asserted up front, thus not allowing for a better run game. Overall, another average performance for a group projected to be one of BYU's all-time best.
Offensive MVP goes to: Cody Hoffman
And how could he not be? As mentioned before, Hoffman turned in another 100-plus-yard performance and hauled in the game-winning touchdown with just 11 seconds left on the clock. Hoffman is rapidly becoming a superstar at BYU, and it begs the following question: what could his career be like with a prototypical passing Cougar quarterback at the helm?
The Cougar defense stiffened after feeling out the Tulsa on the first drive of the game. After the Golden Hurricane went the distance from their 20-yard line on their first possession, the Cougars forced three straight punts, keeping BYU in reach of a win. Here is how the individual units fared.
Defensive line: B-
The defensive line struggled to put pressure on Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne. The Cougar front did pursue well and held their gaps well, allowing for linebackers and unique blitzes to do the dirty work. Overall it was a decent performance by the big three up front, more so in the run game than in the pass rush. The defensive line was part of holding Tulsa to just 1.4 yards per carry.
The linebackers, led by Kyle Van Noy and Brandon Ogletree, had a very good outing in almost every facet of the game. Sure, there were mistakes made, but overall the play from the linebacker position, coupled with special teams play, allowed the offense to eventually get back into the game. At first the linebackers struggled with tackling, but once the rust wore off, they got back to playing physical and disruptive football and made plays during crucial periods throughout the game. Coach Mendenhall should also get some of the credit for the play-calling, but the linebackers executed it well for the most part.
Corby Eason struggled a bit in deep coverage against 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound Bryan Burnham, Tulsa's version of Cody Hoffman. However, the overall corner play did its part in allowing only 18 completions out of 32 attempts, and that's against a strong-armed quarterback in Kinne, who ended with fewer passing yards than BYU's Riley Nelson. BYU's cornerbacks held Kinne to fewer passing yards than Oklahoma did this year.
Two mental mistakes by the safety position led to two Tulsa touchdowns. I would have liked to have seen better downfield coverage during deep passes, but they often got caught looking in the backfield for run support when Tulsa was having success with the option ride at the start of the game. Tulsa ended up with 235 passing yards on the day.
Defensive MVP goes to: Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy was disruptive in the backfield, and when his number was called during crucial times, he didn't disappoint. Van Noy singlehandedly stopped the Tulsa offense and turned the momentum back in BYU's favor with a string of playmaking that energized the defense. Against Tulsa, he was the heart and soul of a defense that needed to step up in order to allow the Cougar offense a chance to come back for a victory.
Special teams: A
The special teams kept the pressure on Tulsa's offense, forcing the Golden Hurricane to drive the distance of the field multiple times. Riley Stephenson arguably had one of his best games of the year in the kicking game, and team coverage was excellent. J.D. Falslev proved his worth on the punt return unit, giving his offense a chance for greater success with good returns. Overall the special teams performance placed Tulsa at a consistent field disadvantage, while the play of the defense gave the offense enough opportunities to make the plays to win the 2011 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.