photo by Tommy Reid

Tulsa football wins close game against Memphis

Commentary Editor Adam Walsh doesn’t spare the details on the 2021 homecoming game.

The University of Tulsa played their homecoming football game on Oct. 9 against the Memphis Tigers. Glancing at the pre-game statistics, both teams have suffered several losses and wins that were one-score games, leading to their records and capabilities seeming worse than they actually are. But they managed to stifle a long drive conducted by Memphis; the team deferred to receive the ball at the beginning of the second half, and Memphis was limited to a missed field goal.

After a touchback, TU conducted a 13-play drive for 80 yards, ending with a 13 yard running touchdown by Shamari Books. Following this rather impressive usage of short passes and runs, a brief interruption occurred when TU’s new golden retriever puppy stole the show, with Brad Carson holding aloft the new Goldie in a variety of pictures. Perhaps distracted by the joy radiating off of the dog lovers in the stadium, TU allowed Memphis the first chunk play, a play of more than 20 yards, of the game with a 23 yard run. However, TU immediately struck back with an excellent pass breakup followed by an extremely convenient interception, both due to corner Travon Fuller outplaying quarterback and receiver. Fuller recognized the play from a previous drive, rolled under the route and robbed the pass, bringing the TU offense back on the field.

Unfortunately, TU went nowhere on their first three plays, then attempted to convert on fourth down, failing and handing the ball straight back to Memphis. Thankfully, Memphis started on their own nine, but on third and seven Memphis converted by tossing a 25 yard pass. Two TU players were somehow injured on the same play despite not being all that close to the action. Mentions of a tactical injury call abounded in the writer’s box, but seemed ineffectual with Memphis tossing another deep ball for about 20 yards. After the first quarter pause, Memphis then forgot how to play football, leading to a breakdown in progress and another missed field goal attempt.

In alarming fashion, the Golden Hurricane went three and out again, giving the ball back to Memphis with the Tigers mimicking TU’s own scoring drive. Through 12 plays covering 80 yards and over five minutes, Memphis methodically pushed down the field, earning a touchdown with a clever play design that took advantage of TU’s reliance on a three-man defensive front. Pulling a guard to stop a blitz on the left and sending the tight end as the lead blocker, Memphis tied things up.
After Memphis remembered that they play to win , TU’s quarterback Davis Brin seemingly took it upon himself to attack a Memphis player, launching a football and intentionally underthrowing what would have been a bomb pass that instead bonked the defender on his back. It’s difficult to tell who was in the wrong, whether the receiver was supposed to cut back or if Brin underthrew. However, the dangerous pass two plays later indicates Brin might have simply been impatient, with the ball barely slipping through defenders and preventing an interception, but leading to the punt unit taking the field.

Memphis’s next drive looks very similar to its last one, with a hurry-up style focusing on short passes and quick runs. Unfortunately, TU’s leading tackler #1 Kendarin Ray was injured on the first play of that drive with a lower leg or ankle injury. Unlike the previous Memphis drive, the Memphis QB kept insisting on taking hard shots and getting pushed out of bounds instead of protecting himself. Yet the outcome was the same, with Memphis capitalizing on a 22 yard pass, followed by a two yard TD run, but missing the extra point.

With 32 seconds left in the half, TU ate their spinach, listened to some “Renegade” by Styx, pulled up their pants and snapped the ball early. However, The officials decided it wasn’t an actual play. Starting at their own 25, TU sent three passes for three completions leading to seven points. The drive was 27 seconds and went 75 yards.

Post-halftime, TU took the ball and went three and out. Memphis responded with a decent drive that stalled out, leading to a 4th and about three attempted conversion on TU’s 11 yard line, hinting at a lack of belief from Memphis in their kicking game. Not willing to be outdone, TU went three and out again, then one-upping Memphis by calling a definitely 100% intentional shanked punt that went sky high but not forward. This strategy worked with Memphis attempting another field goal that hit the right upright. Not willing to abandon what works, TU punted back the ball after a short drive. Seeing that punt, Memphis failed to capitalize on it and the Tulsa defensive line broke through with #30, linebacker Justin Wright, slapping the ball out of the QB’s hand.

With extraordinary field position on Memphis’s 23, four run plays in a row gave #3, running back Brooks, the fifth-most touchdowns in TU history. Three nothing drives later, TU pushed a five-play drive ending with a short pass to #4, Josh Johnson, that goes for 63 yards into another touchdown. Memphis answers with a series of medium-depth passes culminating with a ten-yard pass for a touchdown and then converting the two-point attempt. Contrasting with the earlier comparison of bad drives, TU roars back through hard-nosed runs capped off by a memorable 44-yard run by Anthony Watkins. It’s difficult to describe how nutty this run was, with Watkins shattering several tackles and breathing life into the sidelines and stands. Immediately following this development, I had to abandon my post to head to the bathroom. Free soda and cookies led to a little overindulgence.

Under four minutes left in the game, Memphis seemed to let go of the desire to win, earning a touchdown on their next drive, but with something obviously missing from their efforts. However, they truly could have come back and won, with TU failing to convert on their next drive, leaving Memphis in the driver’s seat for what seemed to be the last drive.

Starting at the four with less than three minutes remaining, the Memphis QB completed for 16, and a cooperative holding penalty moved the ball to the twenty. TU answered with a vicious sack, but Memphis regained lost ground with a short run. Unfortunately for them, the offense failed to complete on the next pass, putting things at fourth and 11 for potentially Memphis’s last drive. With the crowd cheering, Memphis snaps, the QB scans, launches the ball and the receiver plucks it out of the air. Now at the 42, Memphis seems confident, launching into another pass attempt that seems incomplete with, who else, #2 Travon Fuller batting the ball down. But wait! He intercepted it?! Another defender, safety Bryson Powers #21 lunged, slinging his hand beneath the football and preventing it from touching the ground. Victory formation taken, TU wins their homecoming game 35 to 29.

Post Author: Adam Walsh