Tulsa football being defined by play under pressure
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Monday, October 08, 2012
10/08/12 at 4:47 AM
Related Story: TU Notebook: Green update
Among the University of Tulsa football program's defining characteristics is an apparent imperviousness to stress.
What happened on Saturday - a 45-38 Conference USA victory at Marshall, secured with a fourth-quarter comeback and clutch plays - has become routine for the Golden Hurricane.
"I texted that to a lot of my friends after the game - I just really believe that we've got a bunch of tough guys," TU coach Bill Blankenship said on Sunday. "They're physically and mentally tough. They don't panic."
Since the start of the 2007 season, the Golden Hurricane has been involved in 23 games decided by seven or fewer points. The TU record in those contests is 14-9. Beginning with the 2010 victory at Notre Dame (28-27), Tulsa has prevailed in eight of its last nine such contests.
Over the last three Saturdays, the common denominator has been drama:
After trailing 20-7, the Hurricane rallied for a 27-26 triumph over Fresno State. The Bulldog offense, only a week removed from having cold-cocked Colorado with 69 points and 665 yards, had second-half totals of zero points and 111 yards against TU.
At UAB, Tulsa twice led by 14 points but allowed the Blazers to tie the score in the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, the Hurricane got a 6-yard touchdown run from Alex Singleton and huge defensive plays from linebackers DeAundre Brown and Mitchell Osborne. TU escaped with a 49-42 victory.
And on Saturday at Marshall, after again leading by two touchdowns, Tulsa trailed 38-37 in the fourth period. To take its win streak from four games to five, the Hurricane rallied with a pair of Cody Green passes (47 yards to Keyarris Garrett, setting up a 4-yard TD throw to Jordan James) and a pair of remarkable pass break-ups - one by cornerback Lowell Rose with 3:32 left, on a fourth-down pass into the end zone; and one by safety Marco Nelson, on a fourth-down pass into the end zone with 44 seconds remaining.
During postgame interviews, Tulsa players seemed to view the Marshall game as having been a business-as-usual competition.
"It was a fun game, actually," said Singleton, who scored three touchdowns (including a 48-yarder, untouched, on a fourth-and-1 gamble by Blankenship).
"I play football for close games like this," Nelson said.
Blankenship himself didn't seem affected by yet another tight finish: "I thought it was an interesting game."
On Sunday, the coach joked about TU's penchant for exciting Saturdays: "All I'm doing is getting more gray hair out of the deal."
There won't be an exciting Saturday this week. Tulsa plays on Thursday, hosting UTEP for a 7 p.m. league clash televised by Fox Sports Net. The Miners are 0-2 in Conference USA play and a somewhat deceptive 1-5 overall. UTEP was respectable in losses to Oklahoma (24-7), Ole Miss (28-10) and Wisconsin (37-26).
Tulsa will be favored for the seventh time in seven games, but Blankenship recognizes the potential for yet another stressful game. If it happens, he says, there won't be hysteria on the Hurricane sideline.
"I don't know how to describe it," Blankenship said. "These guys really believe in each other. They believe that they are a championship-caliber team. They're doing enough to get by. As coaches, we've still got a lot of corrections to make. We've got to be more efficient offensively and defensively.
"We're serious about a conference championship. But I think (TU players) get the idea that it's a one-game playoff each week."
7 p.m. Thursday
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: TU seems to thrive in tight games
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397