In a battle of offenses, the Golden Hurricane came just short of beating the Naval Academy in Annapolis over the weekend. With the loss, Tulsa drops to second in the West division, tied with Houston.
Navy takes sole possession of the West division and has the easiest path to the American Athletic Conference Championship.
The two offenses combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense between the two of them. Navy utilizes a run-heavy offense, and Tulsa — which has had an extremely strong running game the last couple of weeks — used a much more balanced approach this game.
Senior quarterback Dane Evans threw for 369 yards, and become Tulsa’s all-time passing leader, moving ahead of Paul Smith who set the record from 2003-2007. Evans currently sits at 10,945 yards and will have three more games left this season to add to that total.
The Golden Hurricane still ran the ball effectively, even with a more pass-heavy kind of offensive effort, rushing for 207 yards. Senior running back D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 81 yards which put him over 1,000 yards for the season, joining teammate James Flanders in the process.
This is only the second time in school history — the first being in the 1982 season — that Tulsa has had two 1,000 yard rushers in the same season.
Navy wasted little time in putting points on the board. After returning the opening kickoff 48 yards, Navy took just three total plays to reach the endzone taking the early 7–0 lead.
The Golden Hurricane took even less time, scoring on their first offensive play of the game when Evans found wide receiver Keevan Lucas wide open on the left side for a 74-yard touchdown to even the score.
The Golden Hurricane forced Navy to punt, which was the first time that the Midshipmen have punted in their last 13 possessions — going back to their game against Notre Dame last week.
After the punt, Tulsa moved down the field but had to settle for a field goal in the redzone taking a 10–7 lead midway through the first quarter.
Navy used another three-play drive to score again, this time on a 41-yard run to take the lead a four point lead that they kept through the end of the first quarter. They tacked on another seven point when Navy quarterback Will Worth ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown after a long 10-play drive by the Midshipmen.
The Golden Hurricane responded just 1:29 later on a 56-yard pass from Evans to receiver Atkinson to bring the Golden Hurricane back within four points with ten minutes to play.
After that drive though Navy started to grind, which is something that they do well, especially since they are a primarily running team so the clock doesn’t stop very often.
Their next drive was 13 plays that took seven minutes of the clock, and still ended with a touchdown.
With only three minutes left in the half, the Golden Hurricane moved down the field but once again had to settle for a Redford Jones field goal, putting them down 20–28 at halftime.
The Golden Hurricane came out strong after halftime and were marching down the field when Navy’s defense intercepted Evans in the end zone, taking away Tulsa’s momentum before they could capitalize on it.
The defense stood strong on the next drive though and sacked Worth on a 4th and 1 to force the Midshipmen to turn the ball back over to the Golden Hurricane.
The offense took advantage of the swing in momentum this time, and true freshman receiver Keenen Johnson had his first touchdown when Evans found him for 31 yards, bring the Golden Hurricane within one.
Navy took the next drive down the field again, capping it off with a 15-yard run by Worth to go up 35–27.
On the next drive the Golden Hurricane looked to have their drive stall when they had 4th-and-8 on Navy’s 45-yard line, but Evans found receiver Josh Atkinson for a 44-yard pass to the one-yard line. Two plays later, Evans ran it in himself, but his two-point conversion run fell just short of the goal, putting the score at 35–33.
Navy responded with a big run by Worth from 44-yards out to take the lead, but the Golden Hurricane came right back when Evans hit tight end Chris Minter for a 22-yard touchdown, Minter’s first in his career.
In the final drive of the game, the Golden Hurricane had the Midshipmen at 4th and one on their 49-yard line.
With a stop Tulsa would get the ball back with just under 90 seconds to try and win the game, but giving up the yard would end the game as the Golden Hurricane didn’t have enough time outs to stop the clock.
Jesse Brubaker appeared to strip the ball from Navy before forward progress was called, but the referees called the play dead and flagged Brubaker for delay of game. Without a review of the turnover, Navy was awarded a first down and they ran the clock out taking the win.
Head Coach Philip Montgomery answered some questions after the game.
He addressed the difficulty of trying to play catch up throughout almost the entirety of the game.
“Well it’s one of those games you know, we started off on fire there offensively, we scored a big one early. That’s good and bad, you like plays like that, but you don’t really have any rhythm or flow to what you’re doing, so you still got to try and figure out what they’re doing.”
“But our team’s built to help each other and playing from behind, if that’s what we have to do, we’ll do that. I can promise you that our guys have not had any negative thoughts about not winning this game. Everyone was in and we felt like we had the opportunity to get it done.”
He also talked about the balance of the offense and some of the tough breaks that the team had during the game.
“I thought they did a good job on our run game, but we still had some explosive runs in there. We just weren’t as consistent with our running game as we have been in weeks before.”
“Our passing game, that’s why we want to be balanced, you need to be good at both if you’re going to win big ball games. This was a big one that we just ran out of time on, had our opportunity if ball just comes our way a little bit, or if a call comes our way a little bit then we have the opportunity to try and win it with about 1:40 left.So you gotta be able to do both, especially late in the year.
With a team that controls the ball for long periods of time like Navy, offenses can get thrown off because of how much time they have to spend on the sideline, and Montgomery addressed how that can affect the momentum of the game.
“It’s hard to stay in rhythm, a bunch of our guys went down today and some of their guys went down so that breaks up the rhythm as well. But our guys have been through it now for a year.”
“They’ve been through the ups and downs as far as momentum goes and being able to capture that, so we just got to stay focused and need to keep creating it when we have the opportunities and when you got it, you got to use it.”
Finally, Montgomery talked about Evans after he found out that he broke the all-time passing yards record in Tulsa history.
“Extremely proud of Dane, he’s a great leader, he’s a tireless worker, he’s relentless about being great and you know he’s hard on himself in certain situations. And so, the competitive nature that he brings to the table is something that you can’t put a price tag on.”
“Really, really proud of him, he made some really big, big throws today and really in some big-time situations. Some of those are fourth-and-long, fourth-and-medium, third-and-long. Thought he did a nice job seeing coverages and finding the open guy.”
Tulsa plays next week at UCF and will finish up their regular season just after Thanksgiving against Cincinnati.