Football journalist Hannah Robbins discusses the late mistakes by UCF that allowed TU to beat the conference leader 34-31.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane came into their matchup against UCF with no conference wins and a 2-7 record. UCF, the two-time American Athletic Conference champions, had a 7-2 record and four conference wins. The betting markets were in, and they weren’t in Tulsa’s favor. However, because of mistakes on UCF’s part and successes on TU’s, Tulsa got its first conference win of the season.
The game got off to a slow start. Despite moving slightly down the field, Tulsa was not able to connect on the first drive of the game, and on UCF’s first drive, the Knights were not able to even get a first down.
When Tulsa gained possession again, they got into the groove. Key passes by Zach Smith to Sam Crawford, Jr. and Josh Johnson brought the ball near the goal where Shamari Brooks ran it in to give Tulsa the first points of the game.
UCF started getting down to business at this point. A pass interference call on Tulsa brought the Knights to the 11-yard line, and after UCF recovered their own fumble at the one yard line, they managed to tie the game 7-7 with four minutes left in the first quarter.
After Tulsa failed to get anything started on their next play, Dillion Gabriel’s 49-yard pass put UCF in the red zone, and on the next play they took the lead with a touchdown. Tulsa worked to respond on their next possession, but an offensive holding call left Tulsa with a field goal. UCF extended their lead with Adrian Killins Jr.’s 57-yard touchdown run.
Neither team was able to put together a drive, and when Tulsa gained possession again, Smith was able to connect with Keenan Johnson for a 35-yard touchdown, narrowing UCF’s lead to four. UCF extended their lead to 11 with seconds left in the half after a 48-yard pass by Gabriel and a short run into the end zone.
After halftime, both teams were off to a slow start, but after Cristian Williams intercepted Gabriel’s pass, the tide started to change. Tulsa was able to capitalize off the interception as Seth Boomer came in for Smith after an elbow injury. Boomer’s 22-yard pass allowed T. K. Wilkerson to run in a touchdown, bringing Tulsa within four of the lead.
UCF responded, but was limited to a field goal after Gabriel was sacked. Tulsa had a strong drive as Boomer connected with passes, finally passing 17-yards to Crawford Jr. for a touchdown. Tulsa had tied the game with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Tulsa had momentum, and had a chance for the lead after UCF fumbled on the kick return, but Jacob Rainey missed the 35-yard field goal. UCF seemed to come apart as two UCF players yelled at each other as one returned off the field after an injury, a sign of what was to come.
UCF continued to falter, and Gabriel threw an interception that Reggie Robinson II returned to the 18-yard line. Tulsa could not make it to the end zone, but instead succeeded in scoring a field goal with five minutes left. TU had the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
UCF had one drive to score, but penalties and sacks by TU prevented them from getting to field goal range. The Golden Hurricane was given the ball with a minute and a half left. Tulsa had to run down the clock, but as UCF called timeouts to prevent this, they had to get a first down to keep possession. TU seemed to fail to get a first down on fourth and one, leaving UCF with a minute to score, but UCF had 12 players on the field, which is a five yard penalty. This gave Tulsa the first down and allowed them to run out the clock to win 34-31.