Tulsa gets a week off after much-needed UTEP victory
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane got a much-needed road victory Saturday at UTEP as Tulsa tries to work its way back into the Conference USA championship race.
TU scored touchdowns the first three times it had the ball Saturday and raced to a 34-20 win over UTEP.
“It’s big for us,” TU coach Bill Blankenship said of the win. “We needed a conference win. We have no non-conference games left so we have to crawl out of that hole one game at a time. We go into a bye week that will really help us. Hopefully we can get a little healed up and get ready for Tulane. It is very important to get that first one.”
For once, TU didn’t dig a hole at the start of a game but led from the beginning.
” We took the ball to start the game which is a little different from what we normally do, but we just felt like the offense could maybe jump start us,” Blankenship said. “It turned out to be good. We get some big long plays early and get in and get some points, so I think that helped us. Our defense was playing good, but that kickoff return was a eye opener because it let them get back in the game.”
Trey Watts had 142 rushing yards and Cody Green added 226 passing yards. The Golden Hurricane had a season-high 430 yards of total offense. Green completed 14-of-17 passes and tossed two touchdowns. Thomas Roberson caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown – his first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
“We felt like we needed to keep our defense off the field some and to do that we needed to run the football,” Blankenship said. “That’s what we do anyway, but they were really loading people up and putting extra hats in there and gave us a lot of blitzing. They made it tough, but we were able to find enough yards.”
There were times that the 21-3 lead seemed a bit tenuous.
“We were in a great situation, but we give up a big kickoff return and a short pass that turns into a long touchdown,” Blankenship said. “Just like that it’s anybody’s game. We have to do a better job closing it out. But tip your hat off to the Miners, because they never quit and kept fighting to the bitter end. Their quarterback does a great job. He’s really elusive, hard to get down and takes care of the football pretty well.”
Tulsa held the Miners to just two first-half field goals, but the home team scored two touchdowns in second half bringing the Hurricane lead to just seven points. TU pulled away again, however, as a second Carl Salazar field goal and a Green touchdown plunge extended the advantage to 34-20 with 10:47 left in the game, and Tulsa hung on for the win.
“I think that was the best execution we’ve had overall,” Blankenship said. “We really played well early. We got into some bad field position late in the half and didn’t get to dig out of it. I thought we had enough balance in what we were trying to do to keep them off balance.”
“There was a sense of urgency through everybody,” said Green. “As an offense, we needed to put together a game for four quarters. We needed to help out our defense. We (the offense) needed to flex our muscles and show that we are the veteran group on the football team.”
The Golden Hurricane improved to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in C-USA play, while the Miners fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in C-USA.
Tulsa visits C-USA West Division-leading Tulane (5-2, 3-0 C-USA) on October 26 for a 2:30 p.m. game at the New Orleans Superdome.