The good news for Tulsa is that quarterback Dane Evans, running back Zack Langer and receiver Keyarris Garrett combined for 785 yards of offense against an Oklahoma defense that had stifled Tennessee just one week earlier.
The bad news is that it wasn’t enough for the Golden Hurricane as they lost to No. 15 OU 52-38 in Norman.
Tulsa has a week off and then hosts Houston on October 3.
Evans hit 34 of 51 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns. He rushed four times for eight yards.
Langer got 161 yards rushing on 31 carries and one touchdown to average 5.2 yards per rush. Langer had his second straight 100-plus-yards rushing game and the sixth in his career.
Garrett caught 14 passes for 189 yards and one score.
But OU quarterback Baker Mayfield stole the show by hitting 32 of 38 passes for 487 yards and four touchdowns.
“Baker does a good job, and has always done a good job buying time with his feet,” said TU coach Philip Montgomery said. “It is tough to hold up in your rush lanes for that long. You are trying to get to him and we are dropping guys trying to get into coverage. That just creates some lanes. There were times when we had a grasp on him and just didn’t have a firm grasp. He was able to spin out of some things and started converging and things happen. Defensively, they played a bunch of plays and I thought they did a tremendous job. They kept battling and that’s what I hoped for and that is what we want out of them. Give Baker credit though. He made a couple of good plays and threw the ball really well and bought time with his feet.”
Oklahoma’s 773 yards was the first 700-plus total offense game for a Tulsa opponent since Oklahoma State gained 722 yards on Sept. 18, 2010. It is also a new school opponent record, breaking the record of 762 yards that Houston set in 1968.
Tulsa’s 24 first-half points was the most that Tulsa has scored for an entire game against the Sooners since scoring 31 points in a 31-24 road win in 1996. Tulsa has scored more than 24 points in only two previous games against Oklahoma (31 points in 1996, 27 points in 1919). Tulsa’s 38 points is the most for the Hurricane in the TU-OU series.
“Coming into it I thought we had some good matchups in some spots,” said Montgomery. “They changed some things up defensively, so we had to make some adjustments there in the first quarter. We got a better feel for what was going on and those guys stepped up big and made some plays. Dane [Evans] played well. We missed a couple, but we are going to have those times. We had a couple of things that got called back that I thought were pretty legitimate. We will see it on tape and correct it and go from there.”
Tulsa has gained 600-plus yards in three straight games, the most consecutive 600-plus games in school history. The last time other than this year that Tulsa had two straight was in 2008, when it occurred twice (vs. New Mexico and Central Arkansas, and vs. SMU and UTEP).
Tulsa was down 24-3 at one point in the second quarter and it looked like a blowout. But the Golden Hurricane battled back and made it OU 31, TU 24, by scoring two touchdowns in the final 13 seconds of the first half.
Garrett stunned the OU fans by catching a hail mary pass with one second left in the first half to get Tulsa within seven points.
“With the catch, it’s something we kind of do every day when practice is over – we practice the hail mary play – and I give all the credit to Dane [Evans] because he gave me a good ball,” Garrett said. “I told him to throw it up and I was going to go get it. He threw it up and I caught it.
“They were kind of playing zone mostly on my side the whole game, so they’d call a play and I’d just find a hole in the defense and get open. That’s about it.”
Montgomery praised his team’s determination.
“I am extremely proud of our guys,” Montgomery said. “I loved the way that they battled. They never gave up hope. Never gave up belief. Continued to fight until the end. Made some mistakes that we will go back and correct, but I thought our effort was outstanding and we will continue to get better.
“They kept battling all of the way through. We had the big surge right before halftime and then late in the game we kept working. We got a touchdown there late and stayed with it. We gave our self an opportunity and that is what we want.”
Evans said the coaches knew exactly what to expect from the Oklahoma defense.
“They came out, just exactly what we’ve been preparing for, and we just played,” Evans said. “It’s always fun playing a game. We have confidence in ourselves and our matchups no matter who we play, and I think that showed today. I wish I would have hit some more throws. You know, we fought and we just need to score a little bit more points.
“We’re not going to be scared of anyone. There’s no reason for us to flinch. That was a good defense. That was a good team. There’s no such thing as moral victories, but we were in that game however you want to slice it, whoever you’re going for, we were in that game. Surely people in our conference see this. We’re not going to be scared of anyone, so you line up whoever you want to play against us, our 11, and we’re going to go win. We’re not in the game just because we have to be. We’re in it because we’re going to win.”
The Tulsa defense played without three of its defensive starters – DE Jeremy Smith and LB Craig Suits – missed the entire game. CB Darrell Williams Jr. was injured on the first defensive series and did not return to the game.
After not forcing a turnover in the first seven quarters of the season, Tulsa’s defense forced four turnovers in the next 3 quarters, including the final quarter at New Mexico (2) and the second quarter against Oklahoma (2).
Tulsa scored over 30 points for the third game this year, the most consecutive 30-point scoring games since three straight 30-point games in 2012. For the third straight game Tulsa had 31 first downs.
“There ain’t nothing good about losing,” Montgomery said. “We aren’t going to be satisfied with that. I thought that we had opportunities to really turn the game around. Obviously there are going to be things, win or lose, that you can go back on the tape and get better from, and we are going to do that. Our thoughts coming into this game were that we were coming here to win, not to play close.”