A slow start and turnovers hurt the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday, as the East Carolina Pirates beat Tulsa, 30-17, in American Athletic Conference football action in front of 43,065 fans in Greenville, N.C.
East Carolina scored off an interception and a TU fumble in the first half and led 20-0 at halftime. The Golden Hurricane struggled to get the offense going, but played decent defense to keep ECU within striking distance.
Tulsa didn’t score its first points in the game until the fourth quarter when Zack Langer ran one-yard for a touchdown. That TD capped a 10-play, 81-yard drive with 12:13 left in the game. The Tulsa defense came up big on the next three ECU possessions, forcing the Pirates to 3-and-out on those three possessions. After the first 3-and-out, Tulsa went 88 yards in 11 plays and added three points on a 21-yard Redford Jones field goal, cutting the deficit to 13 points with 7:12 remaining.
A couple possessions later, East Carolina extended the lead to 30-10 on a six-yard TD run by James Summers with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter. On the next Tulsa possession, the Golden Hurricane drove 74 yards in five plays as Evans hit Keyarris Garrett on a 47-yard TD strike with 0:30 to play making the score 30-17.
Tulsa held the Pirates to 382 yards of total offense, the fewest by a TU opponent this season. The Hurricane gained 463 yards in the game, with 288 yards through the air and 175 yards on the ground.
With the loss, Tulsa fell to 3-3 on the season and 0-2 in the AAC, while the Pirates improved to 4-3 and 2-1 in the conference.
Tulsa will be home Friday night to host the undefeated No. 18 Memphis Tigers (6-0), who are coming off a big upset win over then No. 13 ranked Mississippi. Memphis drew a crowd of 60,241 for the game against Ole Miss, a team that defeated Alabama in September. It was the largest crowd at the Liberty Bowl since 2006. Memphis beat Tulsa last year, 40-20.
Friday’s game will mark homecoming at TU; kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.
SPEAKING OF MEMPHIS
Some familiar faces will return to Tulsa as the Memphis Tigers come to town Friday night to take on the TU Golden Hurricane – including head coach Justin Fuente and assistant Bill Blankenship.
Fuente, 39, is a graduate of Union High School and played quarterback under then Union head coach Blankenship, who was also Tulsa’s head coach prior to being fired last December. After being let go by TU, Fuente spoke with his mentor, Blankenship, about taking a position at Memphis. The decision didn’t become final until August when Blankenship was hired to be the offensive analyst for the Tigers.
Fuente has quickly risen to the top of the college coaching profession, in fact, he has been mentioned recently as a candidate for several of the head coaching positions that are currently being held by interim coaches – USC, South Carolina, Maryland, Illinois and North Texas. The first three would be a huge career boost for Fuente, while the other two don’t appear to be as enticing. There could be a move for Fuente and his family this winter.
Memphis currently has a 13-game winning streak that dates back to last season. Only Ohio State and Texas Christian have gone longer without a loss. Fuente is only in his fourth-year as head coach at Memphis. The Tigers have a 23-20 record under Fuente, which is quite a turn around from the previous three seasons before he got there, when the team had a combined record of 5-31.
Also on the Memphis coaching staff is former TU assistant Brent Guy who is working with the safeties.
It will be nice to have the Tulsa guys back in town on Friday night, but it will be a very difficult game for the Golden Hurricane. With key injuries and right now just playing at a different level, it will be a tough match up for Tulsa against the very talented Memphis Tigers.