Tulsa needs two more victories in their last four games to become bowl eligible in the first year for head coach Phillip Montgomery.
A loss against SMU would have given TU a 3-5 record but the convincing 40-31 victory over SMU in Dallas evened the record at 4-4 (1-3 in the American Athletic Conference).
The conference teams that Tulsa lost to (No. 18 Houston, No. 16 Memphis and East Carolina) have a combined record of 20-5. Tulsa’s next four opponents have a combined record of 13-19.
That’s a much easier path to bowl eligibility for the Golden Hurricane.
A win over winless Central Florida (0-9) in Tulsa would mean that Tulsa only has to win one of its last three to perhaps go to a bowl.
The win over SMU was a nice bounce back from a tough loss to Memphis.
TU running back Zack Langer scored three touchdowns as the offense racked up 419 yards with 240 passing and 179 rushing yards.
Langer scored on several short yardage situations.
“It’s pretty cool to be the guy that everyone counts on to get those short yardage plays, it’s not easy but I put some weight on over the summer, which helps a lot,” Langer said. “The guys up front really made my job easy, they got push and I just go in there and get that yard, whatever it takes.”
D’Angelo Brewer had 119 rushing yards to lead the Hurricane.
Tulsa, which features a no-huddle offense, had 57 rushing attempts against SMU.
“We came into the game wanting to put a focus on our run game, I know our running backs are all banged up but we felt like we needed to do that in this football game,” said Montgomery. “We came in with that mindset and we’re getting four to six here and there and staying ahead of the chains so I thought we were pretty solid there. Then late, when you have the lead, you just want to get the win and get back on the plane.”
TU quarterback Dane Evans said a successful rushing attack opens up passing.
“It sets everything up, as much as we throw the ball down the field and get big plays you can’t do that if you don’t try to run the ball,” Evans said. “Say you throw the ball down field on first down and you miss it, well now you’re fighting uphill if you can’t rely on running the ball. And I thought we ran the ball really well tonight the line played awesome, anyone who was in ran the ball well, the receivers ran well after they caught the ball and the run just establishes everything.”
Evans completed 19-of-27 passes with seven passes going to Justin Hobbs for 150 yards.
“Offensively we’re plugging away all the way through, hit a couple of big plays. Hobbs really played well and made some big plays over the course of the game. I thought we ran the ball effectively at times, I thought our offensive line did a good job there,” Montgomery said.
Evans went a lot to Hobbs because he was open.
“It seemed like they were worried about our outside guys and Hobbs was just there making plays – same with Conner [Floyd] who made big catches when we needed them,” Evans said.
The Tulsa defense scored on an interception by cornerback Kerwin Thomas.
“We were in a cloud coverage and I saw the receiver break in front of me so I just made a play,” Thomas said. “We just knew that it was a big game for us for the rest of the season determining if we go to a bowl game or not so we knew we had to pick it up.”
After giving up 132 yards and 14 points on SMU’s first two possessions, the defense clamped down and allowed SMU 174 yards and 17 points on 12 remaining drives.
“When you think about the game it’s a good team win, the defense made some exceptional plays with the pick six, which is a huge turning point for the momentum part of the game,” Montgomery said.
TU receiver Josh Atkinson joined teammates Keyarris Garrett and Keevan Lucas on the 2015 Biletnikoff Award Watch List, it was announced by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club (TQC) Foundation, Inc. Atkinson was one of six players nationally added to The Biletnikoff Award list, an award that annually recognizes the outstanding receiver in college football.
Atkinson has caught 40 passes for 675 yards, a 16.9 average per catch, three touchdowns and a 96.4 average per game. Atkinson had five straight 100-yard receiving games and his bid for a school record-tying sixth straight 100-yard game fell one-yard short when he had four receptions for 99 yards against Memphis.
Garrett was added to the list on September 29, while Lucas was on the preseason watch list that was announced in July. Lucas started the season strong, but suffered a season-ending injury in the fourth game. Garrett ranks third in the nation for receiving yards (966) and receiving yards per game (138.0), while catching five TD passes.