Tulsa overcomes flubs to beat Fresno State
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2012
9/23/12 at 5:43 AM
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It was expected that Saturday's Fresno State-University of Tulsa showdown would be defined by offensive highlights.
The Golden Hurricane entered with a scoring average of 44.7 points. The Bulldogs averaged 43.7.
Ultimately, however, the star of this show was the TU defense.
Against a Fresno State offense that one week earlier scorched Colorado for 665 yards and 69 points, the Hurricane defense dominated for three periods and limited the Bulldogs to two offensive touchdowns and 364 total yards.
In spite of a resoundingly ineffective passing game, Tulsa rallied for a 27-26 victory. Cody Green was 13-of-37 passing and intercepted three times. Two of the interceptions were returned for Fresno State touchdowns, but the Tulsa defense countered with excellence.
Fresno State's only second-half points were scored by its defense, when outside linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo picked off a Green screen-pass attempt and scored on a 21-yard return.
Using its Alex Singleton power ground game - combined with a Green-to-Jordan James third-down pass - TU killed most of the final six minutes off of the clock.
An H.A. Chapman Stadium crowd of 24,236 watched the Hurricane improve to 3-1 overall. Fresno State is now 2-2. Formerly TU rivals in the Western Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs now are members of the Mountain West.
During Saturday's second half, TU's most important pass was released from the right hand of tailback Trey Watts. With 2:52 remaining in the third quarter, and on a third-and-2 play, Watts floated a 26-yard, trick-play throw to wide receiver Thomas Roberson in the end zone.
The delivery more closely resembled a punt than a pass, but it succeeded for the go-ahead touchdown. After having trailed 20-7 in the first period, the Golden Hurricane had scrambled for a 27-26 lead.
Seated at the stadium's south end were about 3,000 youth-league players. They saw a terrible first quarter for the Golden Hurricane offense.
On consecutive pass attempts, Green was intercepted. Each led to a Bulldog touchdown. The first turnover occurred when a Green pass sailed into the hands of Bulldog safety Derron Smith. Four plays later, on fourth-and-1, Robbie Rouse scored on a 37-yard run and Fresno State had a 7-0 lead.
On TU's next offensive play, Green again was picked off. A throw intended for tailback Ja'Terian Douglas was too high.
Douglas tipped the ball and linebacker Patrick Su'a got the interception. Su'a scored on a 30-yard return. The Bulldogs botched the extra point, resulting in a 13-0 score.
Moments later, on third-and-13 from the Tulsa 39, Green found Thomas Roberson with a 29-yard pass. On the next play, Douglas popped through traffic near the line of scrimmage and raced 32 yards to the end zone.
Tulsa's momentum wasn't sustained. Fresno State answered with a 75-yard drive - highlighted by a pair of third-down completions by Derek Carr and capped by Carr's 32-yard throw to Josh Harper for the touchdown.
It is said that football is a game of inches. On the Harper TD play, football was a game of one inch. Golden Hurricane cornerback Lowell Rose got a fingertip on the pass. If he had gotten just a bit more of his hand on the football, the pass would have fallen incomplete.
Instead, with less than 10 minutes gone in the opening period, Harper collected the football, turned and walked into the end zone for a 20-7 Fresno State advantage.
At that point, it seemed quite possible that a 20-7 difference might eventually become 40-7.
Four minutes into the second period, TU had twice as many punts (four) as pass completions (two). H-back Willie Carter hadn't touched the football. Wide receiver Keyarris Garrett didn't have a catch. If not for a heroic play by Golden Hurricane tackle Daeshon Bufford, who sacked and forced a fumble by Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, TU might have been playing against a 20-point deficit.
It was then that Green finally began to make positive plays. On a play-action roll to his left, Green found Carter for 20 yards. On a fourth-and-13 play, Green connected with Garrett for a 31-yard touchdown in the back of the south end zone. In spite of the earlier interceptions, TU trailed only 20-14.
Tulsa freshman Daniel Schwarz was good on a 24-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to three points. His Fresno State counterpart, Quentin Brashears, entered with a 5-of-5 success rate on field goals. On the final play of the half, Brashears missed on a 33-yard attempt.
In spite of all that went wrong - and in spite of Green having been intercepted twice while misfiring on 11 of his 17 pass attempts - TU went to the halftime locker room with a deficit of only 20-17.
At UAB 2 p.m. Saturday
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Original Print Headline: Tulsa tops Fresno despite flubs
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
TU's Ja'Terian Douglas celebrates after a big gain at Chapman Stadium on Saturday against Fresno State. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
TU's Keyarris Garrett and Fresno State's Robbie Rouse look for a pass in the end zone at Chapman Stadium. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World