Dallas • The last-second heroics of quarterback Riley Nelson and receiver Cody Hoffman would probably not have happened on Friday afternoon if not for a play made by Reed Hornung in BYU's 24-21 win over Tulsa at the ninth-annual Armed Forces Bowl.
He's BYU's deep snapper, and he is the player who caused Tulsa's punt returner to fumble the ball with 25 seconds left before halftime that enabled the Cougars to get back in the game.
After taking over on the Tulsa 17, Nelson threw a touchdown pass to Hoffman to trim BYU's deficit to 14-10 heading into halftime.
Officials ruled it a "muff" on the punt, so Hornung doesn't get official recognition in the postgame stats. But his play was noted by coach Bronco Mendenhall as vital in the Cougars' third-straight bowl win.
"It was a great punt with excellent hang time," Mendenhall said. "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."
Not only did the play swing the game's momentum, it also gave the Cougars hope at halftime because they were still within striking distance, Mendenhall said.
"The result of that gave us some momentum because we hadn't generated much offense in the first half," the coach said. "Even though we hadn't generated much, we only went into halftime [down] 14-10, and we knew we could play better."
It was a redemption of sorts for Hornung and punter Riley Stephenson, who pinned Tulsa inside its 20-yard line seven times on eight punts. The duo struggled the last time the Cougars were in Texas, making several blunders that helped TCU beat the Cougars 38-28 at Cowboys Stadium.
And Stephenson turned the field around with his fourth-quarter punt that was downed at the Tulsa 1-yard line with 8 minutes, 5 seconds remaining.
The Golden Hurricane never got out of that hole, even though a possession was prolonged when David Foote ran into the punter.
"I have to give credit to our special teams for keeping us in it," Nelson said. "BYU is known for keeping control and taking big leads. We weren't able to do that today. Can't tell you exactly why."
Hoffman and JD Falslev also made some big kickoff and punt returns for the Cougars, including Faslev's 22-yard return to the Tulsa 48 that set up BYU's game-winning drive.
"Those guys deserve a shoutout," Nelson said.
And so does Hornung.