John Klein: Tulsa finishes strong after letting UAB loose
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, September 30, 2012
9/30/12 at 5:32 AM
Read more stories on the Tulsa-UAB game.
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: TU finishes strong after shaky start
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tulsa messed around long enough to put Saturday's game at UAB in serious doubt.
"We did some silly things," said TU defensive coordinator Brent Guy.
But, with the score tied at 42-42 in the fourth quarter, Tulsa reverted back to the kind of team it has become over the past two years.
Tulsa made a couple of huge defensive plays, including a game-changing interception by DeAundre Brown, then went to work with a punishing run game, battering UAB with 260-pound runner Alex Singleton, to escape with a 49-42 victory at Legion Field.
"We had chances to put them away and didn't do it," said TU coach Bill Blankenship. "After that, it was on."
There was nothing pretty about it. This was a scoring festival that got decided by old-fashioned power football.
When Tulsa needed stops, Brown came up with an interception and then followed with a drive-stopping sack in the final minutes.
When Tulsa needed to run clock and make tough yards, Singleton followed an offensive line that finally took over the game in the fourth quarter.
"UAB has been pushing people pretty good coming into this game," said TU quarterback Cody Green. "We knew this would be a boat race."
UAB is not very good. The Blazers are 0-4 but have been on the upswing in recent weeks, including a close loss at Ohio State.
As a result, when Tulsa gave UAB some life, the Blazers pounced on it and made this a game.
"They (Blazers) tried to do things the right way for a while, but late in the game we just decided not to," said UAB coach Garrick McGee.
McGee, the former Booker T. Washington and Oklahoma quarterback, had a few tricks for his hometown team.
The Blazers hung around long enough to make this very interesting and very uncomfortable for Tulsa in the fourth quarter. A 50-yard pass to Jamarcus Nelson, who also opened the game with a 75-yard TD, tied the game at 42-42 with about nine minutes to go.
"We got ourselves into a squeaker and we were lucky to survive," said Guy.
Yes, they were. This was a must-win if the Golden Hurricane is serious about winning Conference USA.
"Ultimately, we're 2-0 in the conference," said Blankenship. "We went on the road and won a game we could've easily lost."
TU is a defensive team with a tough, powerful running offense. That's exactly what it became in the final quarter to rescue a game that the Golden Hurricane was on the verge of losing.
"It is hard to win on the road," said Blankenship. "You can't give them anything easy."
But, Tulsa made it pretty easy on the Blazers throughout this game.
This was a game that TU seemed to be dominating in every way except on the scoreboard.
"This game had a little bit of everything," said Blankenship. "Then, when we didn't score right before halftime, I knew we were in for a dogfight.
"When we didn't get those two scores just before halftime, that changed the game. Those were the ones that kept us from getting away from them."
Tulsa had a touchdown called back on a penalty and then missed a short field goal just before halftime. So, Tulsa went to halftime up 35-21. It should have been more. After the shaky start, Tulsa had dominated.
"We were still patting ourselves on the back for playing well against Fresno State (a week earlier)," said Brown, who made the two huge defensive plays that changed the game late in the fourth quarter.
Tulsa's defense, so good in the victory over Fresno State, gave up a handful of big plays.
To start the game, Tulsa gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass. UAB gained 150 yards on its first six plays of the game. It only got 188 more yards the rest of the game.
"That happens when you pat yourself on the pat on either side of the ball," said Blankenship.
In the end, Tulsa had to go back to the kind of football it has been playing since midway through last season. It played good defense and cashed in a touchdown with some tough yards.
"Our line was loving it late in the game," said Singleton. "That's what they love to do."
After Brown made an excellent play to grab an interception off a tipped pass, the Golden Hurricane went to its power running game.
Singleton scored on a 6-yard run to take a 49-42 lead with about five minutes to go.
"Great teams are road warriors," said Green. "You've got to bring your best on the road."
Tulsa was not at peak form, so this became a struggle. But winning is the bottom line.
"It came down to the wire," said Singleton. "We didn't put our foot down like we should have.
"But, we won. It is time to move on and get ready. We've got more road games ahead. Let's learn from this and move on."
Tulsa's running back Trey Watts (22) stiff arms UAB linebacker Patrick Bastien (47) as he runs for a first down during the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, in Birmingham, Ala. BUTCH DILL / AP Photo