The Golden Hurricane traveled to Houston on Saturday to take on the Cougars in their second matchup with a top-15 team this season. Houston was coming off their first loss of the season to the United States Naval Academy on the road, whereas Tulsa was fresh off a home overtime win against SMU last weekend. After coming back from 14-point deficits twice in the game, Tulsa’s final comeback effort fell just short and Houston escaped with a 38—31 win.
The game started off similar to previous starts for the Golden Hurricane in that their three possessions in the first quarter led to two punts and a field goal. Meanwhile, Greg Ward Jr. and the Cougars would put up 17 points while the Golden Hurricane tried to find some momentum.
It wasn’t until the last three minutes of the first half when they scored their first touchdown a two-yard run from true freshman Corey Taylor on his first career touch. After forcing Houston to punt it a minute later, Tulsa got the ball back with under two minutes to play — which with the speed that the offense plays is when they really excel on the field. Taking just 1:45 to march down the field, the Golden Hurricane scored their second touchdown on a keeper by quarterback Dane Evans to even the score at 17–17 with just seconds left in the half. The defense forced an interception on Ward’s hail mary pass to end the half.
After putting up only 48 yards of offense in the first quarter the Golden Hurricane bounced back to have over 200 yards of offense by the end of the first half, almost completely made up by their final scoring drives of the half. Houston had just under 300 yards of offense at half, but the defense stood strong in the second quarter forcing two turnovers — a fumble and interception — and giving up no points.
The second half started off very similar to the start of the game. Tulsa’s offense couldn’t find that success they had late in the first half and weren’t putting together successful drives. Houston found their offense again and burned the Golden Hurricane defense for two more touchdowns and a 31–17 lead going into the final quarter of the game.
In the last six minutes of the game, the Golden Hurricane’s offense got moving again as Evans hit James Flanders, Josh Atkinson and Justin Hobbes to march down the field. Evans found a wide open Hobbes in the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown pass to bring Tulsa within seven points. The defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out on Houston’s next possession, and running back Flanders ran through Houston’s defense for a touchdown to tie the game at 31–31. Though after the touchdown Flanders removed his helmet and earned a 15-yard penalty in response for the unsportsmanlike conduct.
After the defense forced another punt the Golden Hurricane go the ball back with 1:39 left to play in the game and looked primed to make a game winning drive. After a 19-yard pass to Hobbes, the Houston defense stripped the ball from Evans’ hand and scored a touchdown on the fumble return, taking a 38–31 lead with only 1:21 left in the game. On the next possession with their backs up against the wall, Evans led the Golden Hurricane down the field, but Tulsa only had two timeouts left to use. Flanders got a big run but was stopped just short at the one yard line. After the refs missed a blatant 12-men on the field call, the Golden Hurricane called a timeout with seven seconds left in the game, enough time for one more play. After faking the run Evans hit ex-tight end and current defensive linemen Jesse Brubaker on the one yard line, but Houston swarmed and forced him down inches away from the end zone, ending the game with a 38–31 victory for the Cougars.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, to come so close to taking their third straight game to overtime, only to be shut down at the absolute last second. But Tulsa showed resilience for a third straight week. That’s three games in a row where they bounced back from slow starts to get themselves back into the game. Tulsa proved that they can be a competitor in the conference by taking the top-ranked team from the American Athletic Conference down to the wire.
Tulsa will play next against Tulane this Saturday at 2:45 p.m.