The third quarter of the Armed Forces Bowl between No. 24 Tulsa and Mississippi State featured one of the strangest punts you will ever see.
Mississippi State was holding on to a 21-13 lead but was punting back to Tulsa with under a minute remaining in the third. That’s when the usually reliable Tucker Day had a brutal mishap.
Day, who averaged 45 yards per punt during the regular season, somehow kicked the ball off the toe of his cleat. He booted a low liner that went right to Tulsa’s Trevor Reh, who was standing only a yard beyond the line of scrimmage.
Reh, surprised to see the ball careening toward him, somehow managed to catch the punt before getting quickly tackled by one of Mississippi State’s blockers.
That went in the books as a zero-yard punt with a zero-yard return. You don’t see that every day.
The gaffe gave Tulsa the ball at the MSU 32-yard line. Nine plays later, the Golden Hurricane scored to cut the score to 21-19. That was as close as Tulsa would get, however.
The team’s game-tying two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. That play proved consequential as Mississippi State went on to win 28-26. The key play in MSU’s win was a 90-yard pick-six by freshman Emmanuel Forbes when it looked like Tulsa was going to take its first lead of the game late in the third quarter. That defensive score increased MSU’s lead from 14-13 to 21-13.
Another interception thrown by Zach Smith near the goal line late in the fourth took away another golden opportunity for Tulsa. Smith would throw a touchdown pass with 1:23 remaining, but the ensuing onside kick attempt was recovered by the Bulldogs.
All things considered, it was a tough way for Tulsa to close out what was an excellent season.
The Golden Hurricane, who played Thursday’s game without national defensive player of the year Zaven Collins, lost their opener to Oklahoma State before going unbeaten in conference play during the regular season. Tulsa then fell to undefeated Cincinnati on a last-second field goal in the AAC title game. With the bowl loss, Tulsa finishes its season with a 6-3 record.
Mississippi State, in its first season under Mike Leach, finishes 4-7.
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