The Golden Hurricane continued their hot streak beating East Carolina at home Saturday night 45–24. This was their third straight win and their fifth consecutive home win this season. The win put their overall record at 7–2, marking the first time since 2012 that the Golden Hurricane will finish the season with a winning record.
On paper it looked to be a very heavy offensive matchup between the Pirates and Golden Hurricane who are number one and two in the conference for total yards of offense. While both teams had over 450 yards, the Golden Hurricane blew past the Pirates’ offense accumulating 616 total yards, the third time they’ve done so since Philip Montgomery took over the program.
After winning the coin toss to start the game the Golden Hurricane, in an unusual move, decided to receive instead of defer and start on defense like they did through most of the first half of the season. It paid off because they continued their streak of early scoring, needing just eight plays and three minutes to take an early 7–0 lead on a 22-yard run by senior running back James Flanders.
After the defense held the Pirates to just 19 yards on their first drive, the Golden Hurricane got the ball back and again quickly marched down the field in just over three minutes for 76 yards. Senior quarterback Dane Evans found senior wide receiver Keevan Lucas in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown to give Tulsa an early 14-point lead for the second straight week.
East Carolina finally found their offense on the next drive, driving down the field in two minutes, mostly thanks to a 51-yard pass from Pirates quarterback Philip Nelson to Zay Jones that just beat the Tulsa secondary.
With the score sitting at 14–7 with four minutes left in the first quarter, the team traded punts and field position as neither offense could get any momentum. The big reason that East Carolina’s drives didn’t last was that Tulsa’s defense stepped up and made big plays every time they made any kind of forward progress. The defense recorded seven sacks in the game, a season high for the team, lead by Matt Linscott (2) and Jesse Brubaker (2).
With eight minutes in the first half, the offense pushed down the field with a little help from East Carolina penalties, but the drive stalled out just outside the red zone and Tulsa had to settle for a 41-yard field goal attempt. Redford Jones hit it straight and it sailed right through the uprights to put Tulsa up by 10.
The Pirates and Golden Hurricane followed up with three and outs, which was the end of the day for Philip Nelson, who was subbed out for Gardner Minshew after only throwing 100 yards (over half of which was on a single play).
With just under three and a half minutes left in the first half, the Golden Hurricane got their offense moving again on the strength of Flanders who had 54 of the 80 yards on the drive. Back-to-back penalties by East Carolina deep in their red zone made it easy for Evans to find receiver Josh Atkinson for the three-yard score to give Tulsa the 17-point lead going into half-time.
East Carolina’s offense came out flying after the half, flying down the field in two minutes to open up the second half with a touchdown to bring East Carolina back within ten, 24–14. Not to be outdone however, the Golden Hurricane responded with their own touchdown drive, in under two minutes, a seven-yard run by Flanders, his second of the game and ninth in the last three games.
The Pirates tried to respond with another drive of their own, but had to settle for a field goal to keep it a two-score game midway through the third quarter. Tulsa put the game away on the next drive though. Senior D’Angelo Brewer scrambled for 30 yards setting up a 64-yard pass from Evans to Atkinson for a touchdown, putting the Golden Hurricane up 38–17. This was the longest play from scrimmage for the Golden Hurricane this season.
Neither team could muster anything for the remainder of the quarter and the third quarter ended with the same 38–17 score.
The fourth quarter started with a huge defensive stand for the Golden Hurricane after East Carolina marched all the way down to Tulsa’s one-yard line. Four times the Golden Hurricane held the goal line, stopping two runs and a pass before Matt Linscott ran untouched and sacked Minshew for 14 yards, forcing the turnover on downs.
Tulsa punted after the ensuing drive, but again forced East Carolina to turn the ball over on downs after a Minshew sack and fumble forced the Pirates to try and convert a fourth and 16, which didn’t happen when Minshew’s pass went incomplete.
The next drive was all Brewer as the Golden Hurricane decided to run the ball exclusively. Tulsa ran 7 plays, for 69 yards and ate up 4:10 off the clock and still got a touchdown, as the Pirates were helpless to stop the Golden Hurricane’s rushing attack. The gave the Golden Hurricane 45 points, which is the magic number, because they have not lost a game in which they have put scored over 41 points.
With the score sitting 45–17 with just over a minute left to play, the game had already been decided. That didn’t stop the Pirates from putting up another touchdown in garbage time to bring the final score of the game at 45–24.
The tandem of Flanders and Brewer combined for 361 yards, the sixth time that Tulsa has rushed for over 300 yards this season. As long as Tulsa continues to dominate teams on the ground, they will continue their hot streak.
In his postgame press conference Head Coach Philip Montgomery talked about the defense’s strong game.
“Haven’t got to really look at this sheet yet, but overall, very, very proud of our football team. Defensively I thought we played tremendous really throughout the whole game. They had a couple drives in there that were just good drives, I mean, guys making plays.”
Moving on, he talked about how this team has turned it around on offense since he took over the program. (Tulsa has had 103 touchdowns in the 22 games that he’s been here, compared to only 55 touchdowns in the 22 games prior.)
“Well, those guys have worked tremendously hard. I believe in what we’re doing offensively. They believe in what we’re doing offensively. Allowing guys to make plays, they’re excited about getting on the practice field, they’re excited about getting in the games. That enthusiasm is what has carried us through. We’ve had great senior leadership since I got here. Those guys have brought in since day one.”
He also talked about the strength of the running game, and his belief that they don’t have an A and B back, but two A backs.
“We really do [have two A backs]. Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been running back by committee. We’re going to give it to the hot hand. Those two [Brewer and Flanders] I think were both hot tonight at different points in time during the game. The great part about that is those five guys in front of them, plus [sophomore tight end Chris] Minter, are doing a great job of understanding the different looks we’re getting, opening up holes.”
“But those guys are running the football with a tremendous amount of passion and pride. They get the ball in their hands, they’ve got a chance to get big yards. Both of them popped big runs tonight but also picked up those tough yards on short down, when you get in the red zone, all those things, those things you got to do as a running back.”
Finally Montgomery looked forward to next week when Tulsa will play Navy for a first-place showdown for the American Athletic Conference West. Last season Navy beat the Golden Hurricane 44–21.
“I thought really last year, especially early in the football game, we played really well defensively. We just didn’t do anything offensively early. Then we kind of got a few things going here or there. We ain’t the same football team, I promise you, as we were last year. Our guys are going to enjoy this win tonight. We’ll come in and get a good plan together. We’ll go on the practice field, get ready to get that done, fly up there and play a tremendous game.”
Tulsa travels to Annapolis to take on the Naval Academy at 11 a.m. this Saturday.