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Provo • Most college football coaches say one of the benefits of making it to a bowl game is the 15 extra practice sessions bowl teams are allotted. It is almost like having another spring camp, they say, and an excellent opportunity to develop younger players.
But BYU's Bronco Mendenhall is not like a lot of coaches, as many Cougar football followers are aware. BYU still hasn't had an official practice since beating Hawaii 41-20 on Dec. 3 and learning the next day it will face Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30 in Dallas.
And the Cougars won't practice this week, football spokesman Brett Pyne said, because the players will have final exams every day this week. Mendenhall and athletic director Tom Holmoe will be in Texas on Tuesday for a bowl news conference.
Although players have been involved in conditioning and weightlifting sessions, BYU won't start practicing until Dec. 19, just 11 days before its meets the Golden Hurricane at Gerald J. Ford Stadium (10 a.m. MST, ESPN).
That doesn't give backup quarterback James Lark much time to get ready, just in case starter Riley Nelson needs to leave the game. Lark is now the second-stringer, with sophomore Jake Heaps having announced last Monday that he is transferring from BYU at the conclusion of finals and won't be playing in the bowl game.
Lark has appeared in two games this season, completing 2 of 6 passes for 21 yards and rushing three times for 4 yards.
In a teleconference last week announcing the matchup with 8-4 Tulsa, Mendenhall said the Cougars (9-3) will be ready for their first post-Christmas bowl game since 2001.
"Tulsa's season and our season have been very, very close in resembling one another, with losses to some good teams and stretches in between," Mendenhall said. "I think it is gong to be a good matchup with two hungry teams, two teams that would like to add one more win to their season, not only for their seniors and this year's team, but for the continued building of reputation and competency."
The game pits two of college football's most successful programs over the past five years. BYU is 48-16 during that stretch to rank No. 12 among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, while Tulsa is 21st at 44-21.
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Armed Forces Bowl
P BYU vs. Tulsa, Friday, Dec. 30, at Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas
Kickoff • 10 a.m. MST
TV • ESPN