Losing is tough enough but losing close games in a competitive league has been the story for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane this season.
The frustration continued last Saturday. For the second straight week and the 4th time this season, Tulsa lost a decision in the waning minutes of the contest as SMU pulled out a 38-34 victory in front of a home crowd of 14,930 fans at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Except for blowout losses to No. 11 Oklahoma State (24-59) and Tulane (28-62), Tulsa (2-7, 1-4 in the American Athletic Conference) has lost by margins of 3, 3, 10, 6 and 4. The two wins by the Golden Hurricane – 66-42 over Louisiana and 45-17 over Houston – are indications of the up-and-down nature of this season for TU.
It won’t get any easier Friday as Tulsa hosts West Division leading Memphis (7-1, 4-1 in the American Athletic Conference) at 7 p.m.
And TU finishes with a road trip to South Florida (7-1, 4-1) and a home finale against Temple (3-5, 1-3).
The Mustangs’ 6-2 start is the school’s best start since 1984. The Mustangs are bowl eligible.
“From 35 months ago to get to this point today is remarkable,” said SMU coach Chad Morris. “To get to where we want to get to and consistently win championships here at SMU, you had to get to this point first. To get here, it raises the bar for this program. I’m so proud these young men believed in us when nobody else did. When others said it would be so difficult to do, these kids saw it as an opportunity.”
Against SMU, Tulsa held the lead through the first three quarters before succumbing to an SMU touchdown with 13:26 left in the game that put the Mustangs ahead 35-34. With SMU ahead by 4 points at 38-34, the Hurricane marched to the SMU 23-yard line with under 6 minutes in the game before an interception in the end zone ended Tulsa’s scoring opportunity.
Last week, Tulsa threw into the end zone with 0:01 on the clock, but failed to convert the touchdown. Against SMU, Tulsa had one more possession following the interception, but couldn’t convert a first down on 4 plays. In games 3 and 4 this year, Tulsa lost on field goals to Toledo and New Mexico as time elapsed in each of those contests.
SMU improved to 6-2 and 3-1 in league play.
Tulsa only managed six second-half points and 136 yards. A big turning point for the defense came on Tulsa’s first drive of the second half. A long touchdown rush for the Golden Hurricane was negated for taunting before the runner reached the end zone. It wiped the touchdown off the board, and the Mustangs held the Golden Hurricane to just three points.
D’Angelo Brewer had to carry the load for the Hurricane on the ground as freshman Shamari Brooks left the game in the first quarter with an injury. Brewer finished with 156 yards and one TD, while freshman redshirt quarterback Luke Skipper completed 9-of-23 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown.
Tulsa place-kicker Redford Jones scored 10 points on 2 field goals and 4-of-4 on PATs to become the school’s all-time scoring leader with 301 career points.
For the game, SMU gained 581 total yards to Tulsa’s 458. The Hurricane had 246 yards on the ground and 212 passing yards.
Senior Nigel Carter caught his first career touchdown pass to give Tulsa a 7-0 lead as he hauled in a career-long 41-yard pass from Luke Skipper with 11:01 on the first half clock.
In the first quarter, Tulsa gained 182 total yards marking the first time in the last four games that the Hurricane surpassed 100 yards of total offense in the 1st quarter. In the previous 3 games, Tulsa gained 87 (UConn), 56 (Houston) and 89 (Tulane) in the first quarter, totaling 232 first-quarter yards combined in the past 3 games.
For the second time this season, D’Angelo Brewer went over 100 yards rushing in the first half with 134 yards. Brewer totaled 174 first-half yards in the second game of the season against Louisiana. The 100-plus-yard first-half marked the 4th time in his career that Brewer went over 100 yards in the first half – the others came in 2016 vs. San Jose State (134) and Fresno State (131).