Nelson's big day leads BYU in Hawaii

Dec 4 2011 - 12:11am

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(EUGENE TANNER/The Associated Press) BYU wide receiver JD Falslev (right) escapes the grasp of Hawaii cornerback Mike Sellers.
(EUGENE TANNER/The Associated Press) BYU wide receiver JD Falslev (right) escapes the grasp of Hawaii cornerback Mike Sellers.

HONOLULU -- Riley Nelson threw for 363 yards and three scores to lead Brigham Young to a 41-20 win over Hawaii on Saturday.

The Armed Forces Bowl-bound Cougars (9-3), who trailed in the second quarter, rallied with 34 consecutive points to end postseason aspirations for the Warriors (6-7). Hawaii needed to beat the Cougars to secure a berth in the Hawaii Bowl.

Nelson, who missed most of the last two games due to injury, completed 25 of 37 passes. BYU racked up 530 yards of offense -- including 296 in the second half -- and 28 first downs.

"We moved the ball in the first half, but we didn't put points on the board in the first half because of a couple missed kicks," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We had to tighten up a few things, which happened in the second half. We played with a little more emotion ... I think we improved again and are still gaining momentum."

Hawaii led 13-7 with less than four minutes to play in the second quarter following a 79-yard touchdown pass from David Graves to Trevor Davis, but it was all Cougars after that.

BYU's Justin Sorensen cut the score to 13-10 with a 33-yard field goal just before halftime.

Nelson put the Cougars ahead for good early in the third quarter with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Ross Apo -- his second of the game. He also caught a 22-yard touchdown from Nelson in the second quarter.

On Hawaii's ensuing drive, BYU's Uona Kaveinga forced a fumble, which was recovered by Joe Sampson and returned 26 yards for a Cougars' touchdown to extend their lead to 24-13.

Bryan Kariya scored on a 1-yard run and Nelson hooked up with Cody Hoffman for a 38-yard touchdown pass, which made it 38-13 after the third quarter. Hoffman finished with 123 yards on seven receptions -- both game highs.

Sorensen, who missed two first-half field goals, tacked on a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter to give BYU it's largest lead at 41-13.

Hawaii opened the scoring with a 1-yard Graves run late in the first quarter, but the extra point was missed. BYU went ahead early in the second quarter on Nelson's 22-yard scoring strike to Apo and ensuing PAT by Sorensen.

Mendenhall praised Nelson, who had shared time with Jake Heaps for most of the season.

"I really liked it. It took him a series or two or three to get his rhythm, timing, just the feel back," Mendenhall said. "And as you saw in the second half, there was quite a difference. He just became who he has been."

John Hardy-Tuliau made a game-high 10 tackles while Richard Torres and Aaron Brown each added eight stops for Hawaii, which lost four of its last five games.

It was the first meeting between the former Western Athletic Conference rivals since 2002, when BYU beat Hawaii 35-32 in Provo, Utah. BYU was in the WAC from 1962 to 1999 before leaving for the Mountain West Conference. Hawaii, which has been a WAC member since 1979, joins the Mountain West next year. The Cougars now lead the all-time series against Hawaii 20-8.

Hawaii, which was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the WAC, failed to reach the postseason for the second time in head coach Greg McMackin's four-year tenure.

"We aren't going to a bowl game," McMackin said. "I feel bad for the players, coaches and the fans, everybody with the program."

BYU will play a to-be-determined Conference USA opponent in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 30.

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