After learning that they would be playing without safety Cristian Williams, Arkansas St. handed TU a tough loss.
This week has been rough for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. After coming off a career game last week (11 tackles against Texas), Cristian Williams posted on Instagram that his time with collegiate football is over. Tulsa walked onto the field with heavy hearts to face Arkansas State (ASU) and ultimately lost 29-20.
Even though Tulsa was the first to score with a one-yard run in by Corey Taylor II, the defense couldn’t hold ASU off. ASU’s Blake Grupe made a field goal from the 35-yard line. In the second quarter, ASU’s Marcel Murray rushed three yards for a touchdown, followed by Grupe with another good kick. In the last second of the half, Grupe made yet another goal kick that was good.
After the half, ASU came out strong with an almost immediate touchdown from Justice Hansen. Skipper threw a pass that was intercepted by ASU’s Demari Medley who returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Tulsa’s Nate Walker cleared a field goal from the 22-yard line. In the fourth quarter, Luke Skipper connected on a 10-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Cole Neph. After this play, ASU had the ball in hand, but Tulsa’s defense held their ground until the fourth down. Walker made another field goal from the 35-yard line. Tulsa’s defense followed this up with some more clutch stops, before getting the ball back just a couple yards in front of their own end zone. On the first play of the drive, a busted end-around resulted in a safety, effectively sealing the game for Arkansas State.
When asked to talk about the rally in the second half, sophomore quarterback Luke Skipper admitted “… we were a lot more balanced in the second half, so it helped a lot and getting that first down was huge for us. We tried to do that and keep the momentum, but it didn’t go our way.”
Trevis Gipson, junior defensive end, said, “We did see sparks of greatness in the second half. The thing with us is we just have to come out fast. So it’s not the offense’s fault, it is not the defense’s. Like I just told Luke [Skipper], defense sort of controls the scoreboard also. We get shutouts. We keep them off the scoreboard. Part of our job, but with football, it can go either way, good or bad.” They both went on to mention that they will review the tapes, work out the negatives and push the positives to become better players.
Despite the rough night, Tulsa did have some highlights. Redshirt Zaven Collins saw his first action as a middle linebacker. Another redshirt freshman, Daiquain Jackson, kicked off his career at safety while true freshman Justin Wright also got into his first game as a linebacker. Shamari Brooks was at it again with his sixth career 100-yard rushing game; he finished with 115 yards on 21 carries. Jarion Anderson finished with a career-best 45 yards on five catches. Chandler Miller made his 41st career start. Miller has played in every game since his redshirt freshman season in 2015. Justin Hobbs finished the game with 22 yards on one reception, surpassing Harry Wood (1966-68) for 16th on Tulsa’s all-time receiving chart, Hobbs now has 2,162 career receiving yards. He is just 194 yards shy of Brennan Marion (2007-08) in 15th.
And in their hearts
Originally from Dallas and standing at six feet tall, safety Cristian Williams is majoring in Organizational Studies. At Dallas Lincoln High School, under coaching from John Towels, he developed quite the football resume. As a sophomore, he had 55 tackles. Junior year, he had 532 yards receiving and four TDs on the offensive side and had 88 stops and two interceptions on the defensive side. Senior year he earned second-team all-district honors, 90 tackles, five forced fumbles and three interceptions. He started all three years on defense and offense, playing receiver and safety.
At TU, Cristian has made a noticeable impact. Though in 2015 he was one of several freshmen to sit out due to redshirt status, he played in 13 games as part of special teams in 2016. He was credited with 20 tackles and one fumble recovery, recording season highs of three tackles in games against Tulane and East Carolina. In 2017, he totaled 37 tackles, including 25 solos. He had a career-high 10 tackles against Tulane in his most extensive playing time at the safety position, and added five stops each against Toledo, Houston and Memphis. Last week in our away game vs. Texas, he had a career-high of 11 tackles.
Unfortunately, his time playing football has come to an end. After the game against Texas, Dr. Boone and other team doctors worked with Williams to pinpoint the source of symptoms that had been bothering him. Cristian had 5 MRIs that determined he had a cyst on his spinal cord, one that had been causing him health issues since fall camp.
Trevis Gibson credits Williams, saying, “Cristian is one of our hardest workers. Man, he gives us a lot of energy when we need it. He was my roommate since I touched campus, but he is an extremely hard-working man. He puts an extra chip on our shoulder. We may have not shown it tonight, but going into the season we will definitely be playing for him, the fans, and everyone else that supports our team.”