Fort Worth, Texas, December 13, 2011 – The coaches from Brigham Young University and the University of Tulsa met here Tuesday for a media gathering as the “official” activities for the 2011 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl began later in the afternoon with a kickoff function at the sponsor’s Customer Center at Alliance Airport.
BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall and Tulsa’s Bill Blankenship will lead the Cougars and Golden Hurricane into the first-ever post-season bowl game between the two schools on December 30 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas where a sellout crowd will on hand for the contest to be aired live by ESPN Television and Radio with an 11 a.m. (CST) kickoff.
“This is a fantastic matchup, and we are fortunate to honor these two great schools as well as the men and women who serve our country in the armed forces, said Brant Ringler, the Executive Director of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. “We want to thank Bell Helicopter for six great years as a corporate sponsor, and we’re extremely excited about the possibilities of this game.”
Joining Ringler and the two coaches at the early afternoon media conference was Robert Hastings, a senior vice president of communications for Bell Helicopter. A former U.S. Army officer, Hastings had more than 20 years of experience as a master Army aviator and public affairs officer.
“We are just delighted to have these two teams and their head coaches and
fans here for the bowl,” said Hastings, who helped pilot Mendenhall, Blankenship and the school’s athletic directors after the media conference. “The last seven times these teams played, they have averaged 81 points and 924 yards of total offense. We do this in honor of our armed forces and our service people in 130 countries throughout the world. It is an exciting time for everyone involved, and we are so pleased to have the teams and fans coming to the DFW area, and we should have a very great time with the bowl and festivities.”
As the official bowl game that honors all branches of the United States armed forces, the 2011 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will be the eighth meeting on the football field between the two schools with BYU winning the first six times before the Golden Hurricane posted a 55-47 victory over the Cougars in a 2007 game in Tulsa. In the past six games against each other, the two teams have combined for over 81 points and 900 yards on offense.
Both schools have solid football traditions and back on the upward swing in recent years as FBS independent BYU and Tulsa of Conference USA have combined for 46 bowl appearances and a composite 1,094 all-time victories (573 by Tulsa, 521 for BYU).
BYU has competed in 11 bowl bashes since 1998, including the school-best seven consecutive since 2005 under Mendenhall, while Tulsa continues its climb back to glory with seven bowl visits since 2003. The Golden Hurricane has won five of its last six postseason treks since 2003, and the schools are a combined 9-3 in 12 bowl bouts over the past nine years.
The 9-3 Cougars own key wins over teams from the Southeastern, Conference USA, Pacific-12, and Western Athletic Conferences along with a 17-16 near-miss loss at Big 12 contender Texas. Victories such as a 14-13 triumph at Ole Miss to start the season and 24-17 verdict over defending CUSA champion UCF have boosted the Y’s confidence prior to postseason. BYU capped the regular campaign with a 41-20 victory at Hawai’i.
The Golden Hurricane, 8-4 overall and a sizzling 7-1 in Conference USA, came within one victory of playing in the CUSA championship against Top 25 power Southern Miss. Tulsa won seven of their last eight games to finish behind 12-1 Houston (8-0 CUSA) in the circuit’s West Division and had the third-best overall record in the conference.
Individual standouts also abound for both squads. Led by Riley Nelson, the BYU quarterbacks completed 243 total passes for 2,919 yards and 25 touchdowns. Nelson had a career-best 363 yards in Honolulu finale against Hawai’i as BYU topped FBS independents with a 9-3 record by winning eight of their last nine games.
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman (four catches per game, 15 yards per reception) and running back JJ Di Luigi (5.2 yards per carry) also lead a balanced offensive attack. Cougar defenders LBs Brandon Ogletree and Kyle Van Noy (10 TFL, three pass interceptions) also are keys to a win.
Tulsa QB G.J. Kinne, son of Baylor great and longtime and inspirational Texas high school mentor Gary Joe Kinne, not only is a three-time All-Academic Conference USA choice but the possessor 715 career completions for 9,200-plus yards, 78 touchdowns and just under 61 percent completion rate. Kinne finished his Texas prep career (Gilmer and Canton) ranked third in state history in passing yards (11,695) and second in TD passes (130).
Kinne gets his assistance from RBs Ja’Terian Douglas (Arlington Lamar High School) and Trey Watts, who have 1,727 net rushing yards between them and total averages of nearly over seven yards with each rushing touch. WR Willie Carter (14.2 yards per catch on 61 receptions) and LB Curnelius Arnick from Dallas Carter High School heads a ball-hawking defense with 16 pass interceptions and numerous blitz schemes.