The Golden Hurricane bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Houston last week with a thrashing of Tulane in the Homecoming game, snapping their three-year Homecoming losing streak (UTSA, USF and Memphis). The 50–27 win moved Tulsa to 2–1 in the American Athletic Conference and one win away from bowl contention, which didn’t happen until the final game of the regular season last year — which happened to be Tulane.
Tulsa was firing in all phases of the game, putting up 566 total yards of offense, — the second highest total this season, behind only the Fresno State game when Tulsa’s 31-point comeback led to 617 total yards of offense — blocking a field goal to end the first half and only allowing 37 yards of passing and fewer than 400 yards total on defense.
For only the second time this season the offense opened up their first drive with a touchdown — an 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Dane Evans to fellow senior wide receiver Keevan Lucas. Lucas made a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone, diving to catch the ball but still had the awareness to put his foot down before sliding out of bounds to give the Golden Hurricane the 7–0 lead.
The defense set the tone on their first chance giving up four total yards and forcing the Green Wave to punt it deep into Golden Hurricane territory. After three rushes Tulsa was forced to punt it back, and Tulane started their next drive on their own 44 yard line.
Tulane drove down the field on the strength of their running game, and, after a Tulsa offside penalty allowed them to continue their drive, scored on a 6-yard rush to tie the game 7–7.
The Golden Hurricane responded immediately with a two-minute, 75-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead, which they would hold for the remainder of the game. Evans hit senior wide receiver Josh Atkinson deep for a 49-yard touchdown. Atkinson was roughly a foot taller than the corner covering him, and this was the second time in the game that Evans had taken advantage.
The teams traded punts, neither getting any offensive traction for the remainder of the first quarter. To start off the second quarter the Golden Hurricane put together a 40-yard drive that stalled just after they got across midfield. Tulane fumbled the ensuing punt on their own six yard line and sophomore special teams player Samuel Gottsch recovered the ball to give the Golden Hurricane great field position.
Two plays later, Evans found running back D’Angelo Brewer for a five-yard touchdown to push Tulsa’s lead to 14 early on in the second quarter. The offense tacked on another 10 points thanks to a field goal and a touchdown run by James Flanders to take a 31–7 lead late in the first half.
Throughout the second quarter, the defense shut down every drive that the Green Wave had, giving up zero points and only 63 yards of offense. Tulane’s best drive came at the end of the first half, but they settled for a field goal attempt which was blocked by Reggie Robinson to end the half.
Tulane got two chances to score to start the half. After their first drive ended up going nowhere, Tulsa muffed the punt and Tulane recovered the ball just before it went out of bounds, giving them field position at Tulsa’s 17 yard line. The defense again shut them down (with a little bit of help from Tulane’s offensive penalties) and Tulane was forced to kick a field goal. This time the kick was bad and went wide right, giving Tulsa the ball back.
Flanders ran for 50 yards on the next play to set up a big run for running back Rowdy Simon who ran the ball in form 16 yards out to put the Golden Hurricane up 38–7. Both teams traded field position before Tulane started to rally back with two touchdowns on their own.
After the second touchdown Tulane decided to go for two, but the pass was picked off and returned 100 yards by McKinley Whitfield, a play that very rarely happens at any level of football. This put Tulsa up 40–20 at the end of the third quarter.
Tulsa opened up the final quarter with a big drive, almost all of which was done by Flanders. He ran for 62 of the total 72 yards in the drive, including the 30-yard touchdown run to put Tulsa up 47–20. Tulsa tacked on another field goal to end their scoring, while Tulane ran for one more touchdown before the end of the game.
Tulsa took Evans out of the game for the final drive of the game, but current second-string quarterback Ryan Rubley just came in to let the clock run down and end the game 50–27.
The trio of D’Angelo Brewer, Rowdy Simon and James Flanders combined for over 300 yards of rushing, the fourth time Tulsa has done that this season.
Head Coach Philip Montgomery discussed how his team responded after the loss to Houston last week.
“I’m just now looking at the sheet, but overall really proud of the way our football team played. Got a lot of questions last week about how our football team was going to respond. So, really proud of the way our guys came out, especially in the first half and really played well. Proud of offensively, going down first possession right there, getting points, kinds of mixed run and a pass really well. Defense went out and shut them down. And i think that kind of set the tone for the entire first half.”
“We came out and really set the tone in the second half and we made some little mistakes in there that you just can’t do.”
He talked more specifically on the team’s ability to bounce back and dominate a team like they did during the homecoming game. “I think it’s the tone that we set for our football team. That goes on in the course of the game, that goes on in the course of a half, what we do in our offseason program. And we have really preached over the past year about finishing.”
“Going back to last week, last week was last week. Our guys have got to be focused on the next week and we got to bring that same intensity each and every week. I thought we played with a lot of fervor last week. I think that’s just carrying over.”
Finally, he talked about going forward the rest of this season,
“I think we’re still trying to grow and build as a team. I think we’re growing in confidence in all three phases of the game and we made plays in all three phases. Now we made mistakes also, but those are things we got to back in and correct. Memphis is a really tough football team. Going there, that’s a tough environment to play in. We’ll have our hands full with them, but we’re going to enjoy this win and then we’re going to get prepared for Memphis.”
The Golden Hurricane travel to Memphis to take on the Tigers on Saturday night.
Remembering Dennis Byrd
After former Golden Hurricane and New York Jets great Dennis Byrd was killed in an automobile accident last weekend in rural Oklahoma, the football program and Tulsa athletics department honored his memory at the Homecoming game.
The team wore stickers on their helmets, a moment of silence was observed before the national anthem, the TU flag and hurricane flag were flown at half mast and the captains brought Dennis Byrd’s original #48 jersey with them to the coin toss.
Montgomery addressed Dennis Byrd in his press conference, saying “he was a man that stood for everything that we want our program to stand for. A guy that was relentless in his fight to overcome odds, he did everything right, tried to make the people around him better.”
Tulsa in the driver’s seat
With Houston’s second loss in the conference against SMU last night, the Golden Hurricane can once again control their destiny in the conference. If Tulsa wins out in the regular season including a win against the current West division leader Navy, the Golden Hurricane could see themselves playing in their first conference championship game since 2012 when they won the Conference-USA title and beat Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl.
The remaining schedule for the Golden Hurricane is the following: on the road against Memphis, a home game against East Carolina, and road games at Navy and Central Florida before finishing their season at home against Cincinnati.
Dane Evans closes in on record
Dane Evans became just the third player in Tulsa history to surpass 10,000 total yards of offense. With 10,068 career passing yards, Evans needs just 868 yards to become the school’s all-time passing leader.
With 9,170 yards of passing in American Athletic Conference play, Evans became the first quarterback in the conference to surpass 9,000 yards of passing. With a combined 75 rushing and passing touchdowns in his career at Tulsa, Evans passed T.J. Rubley for number three on the all-time list for the Golden Hurricane. Evans is the third player to reach 75 total touchdowns.