The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane kept hopes alive for the Conference USA West Division championship, holding on to defeat the UTEP Miners 31-28 Saturday afternoon before 16,547 fans at H.A. Chapman Stadium. The win improved TU to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in C-USA play, keeping them on pace with SMU (6-5, 5-2) at the top of the West Division standings. The win was their fifth straight dating back to a 52-24 win over Tulane on October 16.
Damaris Johnson became the NCAA’s all-time leader in kickoff return yardage as he finished the game with 280 all-purpose yards. His 62-yard kickoff return in the third quarter set up the Hurricane for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown run by Alex Singleton.
It took Tulsa a little longer than usual to put points on the board. After UTEP found the endzone on a 28-yard run by Joe Banyard with 2:44 left in the first, Tulsa finally struck with 0:07 when G.J. Kinne found WIllie Carter on the right side of the endzone for a 19-yard score. The touchdown capped an eight play, 53-yard drive that took 2:33 of time off the clock.
UTEP answered the Hurricane score quickly when Banyard went 66-yards for his second rushing score just 46-seconds later to put the Miners on top 14-7. Tulsa responded mid-way through the second quarter to tie the game on a 6-yard touchdown run by Johnson, only to see UTEP’s Marlon McClure return the ensuing kickoff 73-yards to give the Miners a 21-14 lead. Kinne managed to square things up before half time, as he led the Hurricane offense down field 63-yards in seven plays, completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay with just 33-seconds left in the second.
Tulsa took the lead for the first time in the third quarter when Kevin Fitzpatrick booted a 23-yard field goal to capitalize a 13-play, 69-yard drive to open the third quarter. Banyard’s five-yard touchdown run less than five minutes later gave the Miners a 28-24 lead with 5:20 remaining in the third before Singleton’s score put Tulsa ahead for good. On second and goal from the one yard-line, Singleton took the hand-off from Kinne and ran through a gap on the left side of the line and into the endzone to give Tulsa the three-point lead.
The Hurricane defense came up big when it mattered most, holding UTEP scoreless in the fourth quarter. Tulsa forced two punts in the final stanza, before turning the ball over on downs to UTEP at the Miners’ 30 yard-line. UTEP then mounted a six-play, 34-yard drive before Dexter McCoil hauled in an interception at Tulsa’s 43 yard-line with 1:40 remaining. The offense managed to gain a first down which enabled them to run out the clock and secure the win.
"Good teams, even when they don’t play well, find a way to win," said TU Head Coach Todd Graham. "It was one of those days for us."
Tulsa now looks ahead to Friday’s home finale against Southern Miss while they look to get a little help from a familiar foe. SMU, who handed the Hurricane their most recent loss, holds the tie breaker in the division title race, so in order for the Hurricane to move into the C-USA title game they must win Friday and see East Carolina defeat SMU in Greenville, North Carolina. East Carolina defeated Tulsa in the season opener on a hail-Mary pass with no time remaining, but on Friday the Hurricane faithful will be cheering for the purple-clad Pirates to give them a helping hand.
SMU and East Carolina will kick-off at 1 p.m. on CBS College Sports, while the Hurricane and Golden Eagles contest will follow on the same network at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for Friday’s game and may be purchased at tulsahurricane.com or by calling 918-631-GOTU (4688).
2:44 1st UTEP Banyard 28 run (Warren kick)
0:07 1st TU Kinne 19 pass to Carter (Fitzpatrick kick)
14:21 2nd UTEP Banyard 66 run (Warren kick)
6:12 2nd TU D. Johnson 6 run (Fitzpatrick kick)
6:01 2nd UTEP McClure 73 kickoff return (Warren kick)
0:33 2nd TU Kinne 12 pass to Clay (Fitzpatrick kick)
10:01 3rd TU Fitzpatrick 23 Field Goal
5:20 3rd UTEP Banyard 5 run (Warren kick)
4:00 3rd TU Singleton 1 run (Fitzpatrick kick)
UCF 61, Tulane 14
SMU 31, Marshall 17
Rice 62, East Carolina 38
Southern Miss 59, Houston 41
UAB 31, Memphis 15
C-USA STANDINGS (Conference record listed second)
WEST DIVISION: 1. SMU 6-5, 5-2; 2. Tulsa 8-3, 5-2; 3. Houston 5-6, 4-4; 4. UTEP 6-6, 3-5; 5. Tulane 4-7, 2-5; 6. Rice 3-8, 2-5.
EAST DIVISION: 1. UCF 8-3, 6-1; 2. East Carolina 6-5, 5-2; 3. Southern Miss 8-3, 5-2; 4. Marshall 4-7, 3-4; 5. UAB 4-7, 3-4; 6. Memphis 1-10, 0-7.