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Friday, December 30, 2011
Armed Forces Bowl: Three Keys

By Andrea Adelson

You saw the preview and prediction. Now here are three keys for BYU and Tulsa in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Friday.

BYU (9-3)

1. Slow down G.J. Kinne. There is no question that Kinne is the most valuable player on the Tulsa offense because he can do a variety of things. Kinne leads the team with an average of 273.4 yards of total offense per game and is always a threat to run out of the backfield. What should help BYU is practicing against its own running quarterback in Riley Nelson. But Kinne has a much better arm and is much more experienced, so BYU has to contain him if it has any shot at winning the game. The only true rushing quarterback BYU has faced this season was Chuckie Keeton at Utah State, and he had 22 yards on six carries.

2. Stop the run. Tulsa averages more than 200 yards on the ground per game, so making sure the Golden Hurricane are not running at will and chewing up clock will be a huge part of this game. Kinne certainly can win contests with his arm, but it puts an incredible amount of strain and pressure on any quarterback when his offense becomes one-dimensional. Tulsa does well with play-action passes, so stopping the run means taking away those calls as well.

3. Keep Nelson healthy. BYU goes into this game with no experience behind Nelson, so it is going to be extremely important to protect the starting quarterback. Nelson can run, and he is not afraid to give up his body -- that already led to one injury this season in which he missed several games. Jake Heaps, who was demoted and would have served as the backup, left the team when he decided to transfer. So that leaves James Lark behind Nelson. Lark has attempted only 10 passes in his career.

Tulsa (8-4)

1. Run it. Just as BYU has to make an effort to stop the run, Tulsa is going to try to run the football effectively. The Golden Hurricane failed to rush for more than 100 yards just once all season -- against North Texas. They also have rushed for 200 or more yards five times this season. Like BYU, Tulsa does not rely on one primary back -- Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts have each run for more than 800 yards this season, and they are vastly different runners.

2. Force third-and-long. Third-down defense is going to be important for Tulsa in this game. BYU ranks No. 3 in the nation in third-down conversions at 52.94 percent. Tulsa has not been the best in this category, ranking No. 83 in third-down defense while allowing opponents to convert 42.7 percent of the time. Coach Bill Blankenship knows his team has to limit the big plays and force BYU into uncomfortable passing situations, because that is not an area of strength for the Cougars.

3. Limit the mistakes. Neither team has been great in turnover margin. In fact, both teams are in negative territory here. But both coaches realize this is an important aspect to this game because one turnover could really change the outcome. After leading the nation in interceptions a year ago with 24, that number has dropped to 16 for Tulsa, so it will be important to get to Nelson and force him into mistakes.