The play midway through the fourth quarter represented the BYU Cougars' last real chance to score, it turned out, and No. 5-ranked Notre Dame escaped with a 17-14 win on Saturday.
"That's one of those things that is going to haunt me to my death," Nelson said.
Hoffman, who talked before the game of his love for the movie "Rudy," set at Notre Dame, was again the Cougars' receiving leader, catching eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown.
But the junior standout and the Cougars were left wondering what might have been if Nelson's pass had been within reach.
"It was just like a little scramble-drill type of thing. He just threw it a little bit behind me," Hoffman said. "I kinda slowed down, to sit in the zone. ... He missed me by a little bit."
The Cougars picked up 15 yards on the two plays following the miscommunication play, getting to the Irish 31. But Nelson was sacked for a 9-yard loss, and coach Bronco Mendenhall deemed a 51-yard field goal to be out of junior Justin Sorensen's range.
"We got a couple nice chunk plays," said offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. "We needed one or two more."
Hoffman has now caught a pass in 27 straight games, but the underlying theme for BYU's offense Saturday was once again the failure to do much more than dink and dunk.
"Somehow, we've got to find a way to take the top off teams, make some explosive plays," Nelson said, taking the blame for missing Hoffman.
The Cougars ran 61 plays from scrimmage for 243 yards; the Irish had one fewer play, but racked up 146 more yards.
Nelson completed 23 of 36 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked four times, including three times in the first quarter.
"I liked [Nelson's performance]," Mendenhall said. "Thought he made good decisions and played with a lot of heart and gave us a chance to win."
BYU's missed opportunity
• In the fourth quarter, Riley Nelson's first-and-10 pass sails over a wide-open Cody Hoffman.
• Hoffman catches an 8-yard pass to the ND 38.
• Nelson rushes 7 yards to the ND 31.
• Nelson is sacked for loss of 9 yards on first-and-10.
• Hoffman catches a 6-yard pass from Hoffman.
• Nelson's third-and-13 throw eludes the grasp of fullback Iona Pritchard.
• Cougars punt on fourth-and-13 from the ND 34 with 6:10 remaining.