With high school playoffs underway, local football fans get a rare treat with Tulsa University playing Cincinnati at home on a Friday night. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
The Golden Hurricane improved to 8-3 (5-2 in the AAC) with a decisive 34-20 win at Central Florida in Orlando Saturday. TU can’t win the conference but can hit the 10 victory mark with a win over Cincinnati and a bowl victory. ESPN previously projected TU in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl on December 23 against Old Dominion or Charlotte.
Navy (8-2, 6-1 in the AAC) has one conference game left (against SMU) and finishes up with the nonconference battle with Army. Since Navy beat Houston and Tulsa, a win over SMU would give them first place in the West Division and a spot in the title game. Houston (9-2, 5-2) finishes Saturday against Memphis (4-3, 7-4) but cannot overtake Navy because Navy won their head-to-head game.
Last year, TU lost at Cincinnati 38-49. Cincinnati (4-7, 1-6 in the AAC) has lost four in a row and six out of the last seven.
Tulsa has improved consistently since Coach Philip Montgomery was hired last year. It was a great win at UCF.
“Unbelievable,” Montgomery said after the game. “The locker room was great. Especially coming off all the turmoil we’ve had, and for our guys to react and play the way they played. I thought our defense was lights out all game long.
“Coming into it, knowing that UCF is a really good football team and really on a hot streak right now, they’ve been playing lights out defensively. So we knew we had our hands full but our guys just kept plugging away. I mean we have guys banged up and injured, but the next guy stepped up and we’re still able to make plays and made enough to get a win.”
Tulsa was held to under 200 yards of total offense in the first half for only the second time this season – the previous time came at Ohio State. Tulsa rushed for over 300 yards for the seventh time this year, breaking the previous record of six games set in 1950, 1952 and 2008. Tulsa rushed for 348 yards. TU had two running backs gain over 100 yards in the same game. James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer have combined for four of those games, while Flanders and Raymond Taylor had the other double 100-plus rushing game.
“I think that had something to do with it,” Montgomery said. “Obviously I think our conditioning is really good but it took us a little bit just to kind of figure out exactly what they were doing schematically and making sure that we were in the right look. Once we hit a couple things there in the second half and we’re able to get some kind of lead, we were then able to really look at it and try to get in the right look.”
“Coach Monty established the running backs when we first got here and we knew we were going to be balanced,” Brewer said. “We’re going to take what the defense gives us. That’s all I can ask for, we just want to win.”
For the third time this season, TU held the opposition under 100 rushing yards with 88 for UCF. Jordan Mitchell had a career-high 12 tackles, while Kerwin Thomas tied his career-high of 12 stops.
“I think we played to some tendencies pretty well and our guys were really flying around,” Montgomery said. “I thought we tackled really well as we got into coverages. Those guys really did a nice job of seeking underneath routes and then really being aggressive at the point. Again, (UCF quarterback McKenzie) Milton is tough stuff; he’s buying time and he’s moving around back there. We’re able to get some shots in there on him. But it was a good plan by Brian (Norwood) and Bill (Young).”