“Wow, what a season.”
That’s the first thing that came to my mind Friday evening when The University of Tulsa defeated Cincinnati, 40-37, in overtime, in front of 18,555 fans at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
With the win, Tulsa’s record improved to 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the American Athletic Conference.
It’s the most wins in a season by TU since going 11-3 in 2012, when they beat Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. Cincinnati ended the season with a record of 4-8 overall, and 1-7 in AAC play.
Tulsa fell behind early in the first quarter 14-0, and trailed in the second quarter 24-7.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words to be real honest,” said Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery. “I don’t know what you say after a game like that. We played, really, as a football team, about as bad as you could in the first half. Just didn’t execute offensively, gave up explosive plays defensively, didn’t even look like the same football team that we have been all year. And able to get that score right there before half, I thought that was a big score.”
Even though the TU offense began to get things rolling in the second half, the Golden Hurricane still trailed by 10 points with just under six minutes remaining in the game, 34-24.
“Then we come out in the second half, and [we] just got to keep battling and kind of stepped up and started making plays,” Montgomery said. “The guys kind of settled down a little bit and we started executing a little bit better. And get into the fourth quarter and those guys just, they don’t quit. They’re always believing that this is going to be the play that’s going to change the game. And a bunch of guys made a bunch of plays in there and did that.”
Tulsa managed to score 10 points in the final 3:12 of regulation to send the game to overtime. At that point, Montgomery was feeling good about his team’s chances of winning the game.
“[You] kick the field goal, go into overtime, you’re playing at home; we’ve got the momentum right now,” he said.
The TU defense held Cincinnati to a field goal on their first possession in OT, while Tulsa followed it up with a four-yard touchdown run by James Flanders to earn the victory. Tulsa finished the season undefeated at home.
“So, nine wins later, here we are,” said Montgomery. “Obviously, there’s some games out there that we would love to have back. We would love to play them again. But I’m excited where our program is at this stage and looking to get number 10 as we get into bowl season.”
Now the waiting game begins, as Tulsa awaits an invitation to a bowl game.
“There’s no reason to even try to figure out on your own which bowl we are going to because I think every site has something different,” said senior quarterback Dane Evans. “Last year, we didn’t even know we were going to Shreveport until it was just randomly kind of put on us. So, we are going to be excited about it, but like Trent (Martin) said, this is a long season and it’s going to be nice to get a little bit healthier and try to get as close to 100-percent as we can for that bowl game.”
Since 2005, Tulsa has played in eight bowl games; Liberty Bowl (2005 and 2012), Armed Forces Bowl (2006 and 2011), GMAC Bowl (2007 and 2008), Hawaii Bowl (2010), and Independence Bowl (2015).
Without being in the AAC championship game and not finishing first in their division, my prediction is Tulsa will play a bowl game in Florida this year, either the Boca Raton Bowl or the Miami Beach Bowl. Golden Hurricane fans can start packing their bags for a warmer climate.