A tough loss for Tulsa in a strong division and league

Usually when you score 42 points in college football, you win the game.

That wasn’t the case for Tulsa Saturday as unbeaten No. 16 Memphis outscored the Golden Hurricane 66-42.

Tulsa and Memphis’ combined 108 points is also the most in an FBS game this season. Tulsa finished the game with 544 yards of total offense, marking the fifth time this season that Tulsa has surpassed the 500-yard mark.

Those numbers usually add up to a win.

With new coach Philip Montgomery, Tulsa is playing in perhaps the most competitive division in the most competitive conference in the nation.

Memphis, No. 18 Houston and Navy – all in the West Division with TU – have a combined overall record of 26-1. They are undefeated (14-0) in American Athletic Conference action. And when you add Temple (7-0, 4-0 in AAC) from the East Division, those numbers are 33-1 overall and 18-0 in conference play.

Tulsa (0-3, 3-4), which already has two more wins than all of last season, catches a break this week in a trip to Dallas Saturday to play SMU at 3 p.m. but even the Mustangs are playing better this year.

Montgomery said his team wasn’t losing games due to lack of effort.

“I mean, I thought our guys played extremely hard,” he said after the Memphis loss. “I think we had opportunities in there to really get back in the football game. I love the way they compete. Take nothing from Memphis.  I mean, they are an outstanding football team. Coach (Justin ) Fuente has done a good job and he’s got a great staff over there. They are a very talented football team.

“But I thought our guys went toe-to-toe, and like I said, had our opportunities to pull back in it and have a chance to really put some pressure on them and that’s what we were trying to do in the second half.”

Fuente, who played at Union High School, didn’t take the win for granted.

“This game was an incredible challenge,” Fuente said. “I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be a very pretty game and it wasn’t. I am happy we found a way to win the game, but we did a lot of bad things out there. We made a lot of mistakes, and played a little bit like a team that is still getting over the previous week physically and emotionally. I did think we had great energy. I think we have a group of guys that do like playing. We just didn’t play real well, and you can look at the numbers and say that offense or defense didn’t play well but in my opinion as a team we didn’t play well.”

The Memphis game also marked the return of Coach Bill Blankenship, who was fired as head coach of the Golden Hurricane after last season. Blankenship was Fuente’s high school coach at Union.

 

Blankenship was a star quarterback at TU and won state titles at Union High School.

“He (Bill) has been an incredible help just for me personally being a head coach,” Fuente said. “Specifically, he has worked a week ahead on our opponents to kind of get us up to speed, and it has been a huge help. Obviously we have had a special relationship for a long time now, and it’s been really a joy to have him here with us. What I think it meant to him I don’t know, but he was dead set on keeping the focus on the game. I think it’s obvious it was different, because this place is always been special to him. He was adamant that we do not bring those things up to the players, and rather that we talk about team and our preparation.”

 

TU’s Keyarris Garrett finished with a career-high 268 yards on 14 catches, surpassing his previous single- game best of 189 yards on 14 catches against Oklahoma this year. He caught three touchdown passes.

“He was special tonight and we needed him to be special,” Montgomery said of Garrett. “We talked – I talked to him after last week’s game, and just told him, hey, I’ve got to have more out of you. It’s been tough on him with the loss of Keevan. Those two are so close. But I thought tonight, he played inspiring football.”

“He (Montgomery) told me going into the game that I would have the opportunity to make some plays,” Garrett said. “ I just went out there and I told my teammates that I was going to give them everything that I got. I tried to give them everything that I got, but we came up short.

“I wouldn’t say this was my best game because we didn’t win.”

Garrett also set an American Athletic Conference record for receiving yards in a game, surpassing Robby Anderson of Temple who had 239 against SMU.

TU quarterback Dane Evans had 421 passing yards for his fourth career 400-yard passing game with four touchdown passes. He now has 42 for his career, tying Jerry Rhome (1963-64) for fifth on Tulsa’s all-time chart.

Tulsa’s defense allowed 66 points, which is the most for a Tulsa defense since a 70-30 loss against Houston.