As a new resident of Oklahoma this summer, I’ve found myself suddenly located in a hotbed for college football action. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both compete in the Big XII at the highest level of Division I action, while the Tulsa Golden Hurricane—the team for my current city—compete in Conference USA action. Though Tulsa doesn’t command nearly the same fanbase as the Sooners or the Cowboys, they are a school which can compete in the C-USA year-in and year-out. Perhaps my favorite thing about the Golden Hurricane is that they seem unafraid to schedule tough teams; playing against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State every season, and even scheduling a road game against the Boise State Broncos this year.
Indeed, it’s hard not to root for Tulsa as they prepare to take on the newly-independent BYU Cougars in the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl. As Tulsa is the underdog from a ratings standpoint—and as I begin to identify with them now that I’m living in Tulsa—it was an easy decision to suit up with the Golden Hurricane here at STAT BOX STORIES.
To begin the game, BYU won the coin toss and elected to kick. On my opening drive, I chewed a lot of clock but eventually had to settle for a short 27-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead. On BYU’s first offensive possession, they didn’t get as close to my end zone but still got close enough to tie the game on a 45-yard kick. The two teams exchanged punts on their next drives, and then less than a minute into the second quarter Tulsa got into the end zone with a 62-yard touchdown pass to go up 10-3.
BYU’s next possession ended with an interception by Tulsa’s middle linebacker, and the ensuing Golden Hurricane drive resulted in a 2-yard rushing touchdown just over halfway through the second quarter to make the score 17-3. BYU struggled on offense again and threw another interception, but this time around Tulsa was unable to capitalize; taking a sack on third down and punting the ball away to the Cougars.
This time around, the Cougars drove deeper into Tulsa territory before a Golden Hurricane defender stepped in front of a BYU throw and brought it back 66 yards for a return touchdown and a 24-3 lead with under a minute to go in the first half. That was all the scoring that would happen in the first half—Tulsa threw a last-second Hail Mary interception to close things out—and BYU faced a 21-point deficit getting the ball to begin the third quarter.
On BYU’s first drive of the second half, Tulsa forced a fumble and recovered it; unfortunately, the fumble was the result of a facemask and BYU retained possession. The Cougars took advantage of their good fortune and scored a few plays later on a 24-yard touchdown pass.
Tulsa’s next drive ended with a punt, and BYU wasted little time on their next drive putting together a catch-and-run for a 59-yard touchdown pass to narrow the score to 24-17 in favor of the Golden Hurricane. The offenses stalled on the next few drives, as Tulsa threw their first interception of the game but BYU was unable to capitalize and punted the ball back.
Tulsa’s possession ended in a punt as well, and BYU drove to midfield facing a 4th-and-7 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cougars scored on another long catch-and-run—this time a 54 yard touchdown pass—to tie the game up and erase the 21-point halftime deficit they’d been facing. The two teams exchanged punts on their next few drives, and then Tulsa drove into BYU territory to put a 46-yard field goal through the uprights with 20 seconds left to re-take a 3-point lead.
Unfortunately for the Golden Hurricane, 20 seconds was more than enough time for BYU to drive back into field goal range. With 3 seconds remaining, BYU’s kicker put a field goal of his own true from 38-yards out to tie the game and set up overtime.
BYU lost the coin toss for overtime and Tulsa elected to play defense first. After a few plays, the Cougars ran a draw play for a 6-yard touchdown run and converted the extra point to take a 34-27 lead. On Tulsa’s possession, the Golden Hurricane faced 3rd-and-12 from the 14 yard line when the quarterback found his receiver in the end zone to tie the game at 34 and keep the team’s square through the first overtime.
On Tulsa’s second possession, the second play was a halfback run that went for 23 yards and a touchdown to allow the Golden Hurricane to claim a 41-34 lead. BYU’s possession started off poorly with a sack on second down, a rush for no gain on third, and 4th-and-26 to decide the game. The pass attempt was deflected to the ground by Tulsa’s cornerback and the overtime victory was sealed for the Golden Hurricane!
As has been the case in some of my recent games, my offense was more successful on the ground while the CPU’s offense was more successful through the air. BYU gained only 30 yards on 21 rushing attempts, while 21 completions netted them 402 yards through the air. On the other side, Tulsa ran 47 times for 198 yards, while 7 completions ended up gaining only 145 yards. Each team was fairly woeful at 3rd-Down Conversions, and there were turnover troubles for both offenses; though BYU’s four turnovers were double the two interceptions thrown by Tulsa.
In terms of individual player statistics, BYU’s QB #9 had a monster game with 402 yards passing, though he ended up “square” with 3 touchdowns and three interceptions. Tulsa’s QB #4 also ended the game “square” with 2 touchdowns and two interceptions, but he threw for much less yardage. Once again, it was a halfback who took Player of the Game honors; Tulsa’s HB #8 rushed 34 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns to gain that honor. As far as receivers go, BYU’s WR #11 had a massively successful day with eight catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns; even when Tulsa’s defense schemed to specifically shut him down, he was still able to pick up yards when the Cougars needed them.
As much as I enjoy overtime games and the game-planning that goes into those 25-yard fields in the extra possessions, this was a game that should not have made it so far. With a 24-3 lead at halftime, I got too complacent and allowed huge plays to BYU’s offense to allow them to fight their way back into the game. Even as the fourth quarter was coming to a close, I was foolish enough to believe that my late field goal would be enough; my defense was unable to keep BYU out of field goal range with just 20 seconds to play, and that late game defense is something I’ll need to work on in the future.
The busiest days of the 2011-2012 Bowl Season are coming up this weekend, so be sure to come back to STAT BOX STORIES over the next few days so that you don’t miss any of the action from the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL!