After a loss to the Navy Midshipmen, Tulsa sealed their bowl spot with a comeback win against Tulane.
Navy’s triple option attack shined throughout the game, as they rushed for 457 yards and five touchdowns. By Tulsa’s standards, the offense struggled, picking up just over 350 total yards. Quarterback Dane Evans passed for 278 of those yards; no Tulsa receiver had more than 75 yards. In addition, no Tulsa touchdowns were scored in the air while Zack Langer and D’Angelo Brewer had a combined three touchdowns.
After Tulsa forced an early fumble, Navy created a turnover of their own, stripping the ball from wide receiver Keyarris Garrett after his first reception of the game. Navy took advantage of the opportunity for the first score of the game, as back Toneo Gulley rushed for 70 yards and a Navy touchdown.
Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds avenged his early turnover, throwing a 39-yard pass to Jamir Tillman and rushing for a touchdown, giving Navy a 21–0 lead. The Tulsa offense cut the lead to 14 points on Langer’s first rushing touchdown of the night. However, the offense made a huge mistake to end the half, as a low snap led to a safety for the Midshipmen.
Navy took a 23–7 lead to halftime, and built on the lead with a Demond Brown rushing touchdown, following Dishan Romine’s return to Tulsa’s eight-yard line. The Tulsa offense made up for their safety to end the half, marching down the field in the first drive of the second half, capped by Langer’s second rushing touchdown. The Midshipmen answered right back, as Quentin Ezell ran for Navy’s fourth rushing touchdown.
The Midshipmen made their final score of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter, on a touchdown by Brandon Colon. Tulsa showed some final signs of life late in the game, with a D’Angelo Brewer rushing touchdown.
Next Tulsa took to the road for their final regular season game, facing the Tulane Green Wave. Evans passed for 367 yards and three touchdowns while Garrett had a 216-yard game receiving. Additionally, Josh Atkinson received for just under 100 yards. Tulane quarterback Jordy Joseph threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns of his own.
The first quarter featured touchdowns from each team, with Evans passing to Justin Hobbs and Joseph passing to Charles Jones. The second quarter began the same way, with Tulane’s Teddy Veal and Atkinson responsible for each team’s second touchdown. Tulane took control for the rest of the half, behind a field goal and Joseph’s longest touchdown pass of the night—a 66-yarder to Dontrell Hilliard.
Tulane’s ten-point halftime lead didn’t last for long, as Tulsa put up ten unanswered with a 40-yard field goal by Redford Jones and another Evans touchdown pass to Garrett. Tulane regained their lead over the rest of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter, as a field goal and a pass by Joseph to Andrew Hicks gave Tulane a 34–24 lead.
Tulsa made an incredible comeback to close out the game, as Craig Suits returned an interception for 28 yards and a touchdown just 14 seconds after a Zack Langer rushing touchdown. The 45–34 victory was sealed when Kolton Shindelar returned another Joseph interception for 89 yards and a touchdown.
With the victory against Tulane, Tulsa earned their sixth victory and sealed a trip to a bowl game. The American Conference has seven bowl spots, facing off against teams from the SEC, ACC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Middle American and Sun Belt conferences.
The game against the SEC takes place in Birmingham, Alabama, while the game against a Mountain West opponent (or BYU) takes place in Hawaii. The remaining games that Tulsa could participate in take place in Florida or Louisianna (the ACC game is in Maryland, but Navy is contractually obligated to take that bowl game, leaving the other American schools out of the selection for that bowl).
While the bowl is a fantastic team achievement, a Tulsa player is also a finalist for an individual award. Wide receiver Keyarris Garrett is a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose award, which recognizes outstanding play and off-the-field character of student-athletes that were either born in Texas, played for a Texas high school or attended a Texas football institution.
According to the award’s website, the award “will be presented annually to the nation’s outstanding Division I college offensive player…the player must also exhibit the enduring characteristics that define Earl Campbell, including integrity, performance, teamwork, sportsmanship, community, and tenacity.”
*Editor’s note: Announced on Sunday, Tulsa will be playing in the Camping World Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA, on Dec 26 at 4:45 p.m. Tulsa will be playing against Virginia Tech.