Tulsa closes out regular season with 56-50 win

The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane closed the book on the regular season last Friday, pulling off their sixth straight win in a 56-50 shoot-out with Southern Miss. Junior quarterback G.J. Kinnealt completed 23-of-37 pass attempts while gaining 406 yards and four touchdowns. He added 48 rushing yards and two rushing scores, including the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining. In total, Kinne accounted for 36 of Tulsa’s points on the day, nabbing him his second Conference USA Player of the Week honors this season.

Damaris Johnson led Tulsa’s ground attack with 78 yards, including a touchdown run of 46-yards in the first quarter. As has been usual for TU’s potent offense this season, four receivers reached the end zone as Kinne spread the field connecting with 11 receivers throughout the game. Willie Carter pulled in two scores through the air and one on the ground while Jameel Owens and Ricky Johnson added one receiving touchdown each.

Tulsa jumped out to an early lead in the contest, scoring on Kinne’s 40-yard pass to Ricky Johnson just 1:43 into the game. Southern Miss answered quickly on Francisco Llanos‘ 87-yard kickoff return to tie the game. Tulsa’s offense reached pay-dirt twice more in the opening quarter, taking a 21-10 lead into the second. 

The Hurricane’s only score in the second quarter increased it’s lead to 18 when Kinne found Owens from 27-yards out. Southern Miss used three unanswered scores throughout the remainder of the quarter to pull within four points at half-time.

The shootout continued in the second half, as the Golden Eagles grabbed the lead at the 9:16 mark of the third quarter on a 28-yard touchdown run by Desmond Johnson. Tulsa answered with healthy dose of Carter.

With 7:10 remaining in the third, Kinne found Carter behind a Southern Miss defender on the right sideline. Carter hauled in the pass and went the distance for a 67-yard score. After Dany Hrapmann‘s second field goal of the night, Kinne’s perfectly placed pass found Carter over the middle for a 12-yard touchdown putting the Hurricane up 42-34 with 14:56 left in the fourth quarter.

Southern Miss again answered the challenge, pulling within one point on Johnson’s one-yard run. Not to be outdone, Carter took a pitch from Kinne and galloped 41-yards around the left side for his third touchdown of the game. Keeping the drama alive, Southern Miss answered just 53-seconds later when Quentin Pierce took an Austin Davis pass 67-yards to score. A two-point conversion attempt failed and Tulsa was able to seal the deal with Kinne’s final rushing score some four minutes later.

Despite the win, Tulsa saw it’s hopes for a bid in the C-USA championship fade away, as SMU won an overtime thriller against East Carolina 45-38.

"I really didn’t know until someone told me in the first quarter," Kinne said when asked if he knew of SMU’s win before the game started. "We couldn’t control that. We just came out and wanted to get a win for the seniors."

At 9-3 overall, Tulsa now awaits the results of the C-USA championship game between SMU and UCF to get a clearer picture on which bowl game they may be invited to play in. C-USA, with six bowl-eligible teams, has guaranteed bowl positions in six games. The conference winner will play against a team from the SEC conference at the Liberty Bowl on December 31. 

Other bowls include the Beef O Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida on December 21, the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on December 30, the Military Bowl on December 29 in Washington, D.C., the New Orleans Bowl on December 18, and the Hawai’i Bowl on December 24.

Early speculation places Tulsa in either the Armed Forces Bowl, which will be played at SMU’s Ford Stadium or at the Hawai’i Bowl to be played in Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium.