Tulsa's frustration continues against Arkansas
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Saturday, November 03, 2012
11/04/12 at 8:09 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — During a Saturday afternoon almost completely unaffected by wind, a freshman missed on a field goal attempt from 42 yards and failed to convert on two extra-point kicks.
There also was a drive that ended on a fourth-down pass incompletion at the Arkansas 5-yard line.
There also was an offensive pass-interference penalty that resulted in a 39-yard field-position swing.
At the end, when there was a chance to rally and achieve something that hadn’t happened in 36 years, there were dropped passes.
Ultimately, there was a four-point defeat.
“It was right there,” Hurricane safety Dexter McCoil said. “It was on the tip of our fingers.”
While making the 115-mile bus ride back to the University of Tulsa campus, Golden Hurricane coaches and players undoubtedly dwelled on what might have been at Razorback Stadium.
Squandered opportunities were prominent factors in a 19-14 Hurricane loss to Arkansas – TU’s 18th consecutive loss to Arkansas. The Hurricane hasn’t defeated the Razorbacks since 1976.
“I absolutely love my team,” Hurricane coach Bill Blankenship said. “I love the way they compete. This one sticks in your gut because I really feel like we should have won. I point the finger right here at me.
“I think we know what level we can play it. It just makes me sick that we didn’t get the score.”
Said Tulsa junior tailback Trey Watts, who rushed for 81 yards and scored a touchdown: “Red-zone execution – that seemed to be the dagger.”
Tulsa, now 7-2 overall, entered with a seven-game win streak but wasn’t completely certain of what to expect from Cody Green. The junior quarterback sustained an injured throwing shoulder on Oct. 6, was sidelined during the Oct. 20 victory over Rice and had been extremely limited in practice until Tuesday of last week.
Against the Razorbacks, Green had a great first half and wound up 22-of-37 passing for 222 yards.
“We had it. It’s one of those (losses) that will set bad in your stomach for a while,” Green said. “We wanted this one. We wanted it bad. It hurts when we get down into the red zone and don’t get points.
“(The Razorbacks) are young defensively in the back seven. We could take advantage of it. We knew we had to throw the ball. We had two weeks to get the wing (Green’s arm) loosened up and come out here and throw 50 times, if I needed to.”
Of the 64,451 spectators who attended Arkansas’ homecoming game, about 4,000 were clad in TU blue. Marco Nelson’s 33-yard interception return led to a 29-yard field goal by freshman Daniel Schwarz, and Tulsa had a 15-13 lead at the 9:15 mark of the third period.
The Hurricane had a chance to score again, but a Green pass – on fourth down from the Razorback 5 – was batted to the turf. Early in the fourth period, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson answered with his best sequence of the day. He passed to Demetrius Wilson for 20 yards, to Cobi Hamilton for 41 and again to Hamilton for 14. With 10:08 left, Dennis Johnson scored on a 1-yard plunge. The two-point conversion attempt failed when Wilson stumbled while attempting to roll out, but Arkansas had a 19-15 lead that wound up being the final score.
Ahead of Southeastern Conference meetings with South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU, the Razorbacks improved to 4-5 overall.
“Bottom line – if you’re a soft football team, you’re not going to win very many games,” Wilson said. “Everybody had to step up their level of toughness. I knew it was going to be a tough game from the start. The first play, we had max protection called, and they got through and hit me right in the mouth. So I knew it was going to be a tough game from the start.
“It was just a matter of gritting your teeth and getting through it and who wanted to win it more.”
After trailing 10-0 – with the Razorbacks having gotten points from Johnson (8-yard TD run) and Zach Hocker (31-yard field goal) – the Golden Hurricane responded with a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives. On a fourth-and-goal play from the Arkansas 1-yard line, Alex Singleton splashed into the end zone. And at the end of one of TU’s better possessions of the season, Watts scored on a 29-yard dash.
If Tulsa had been able to execute a placement kick, it would have led 17-13 at halftime. Instead, there was a 13-12 deficit because Schwarz had a rough first half. His 42-yard field goal try sailed wide right. After the Singleton touchdown, Schwarz’s point-after kick struck the right upright. After the Watts TD, Schwarz’s point-after kick was extremely low and easily blocked by Arkansas’ DeQuinta Jones.
The Hurricane committed only one first-half penalty, but it was huge. After a McCoil interception gave TU a chance to take the lead with a late score, Garrett collected a Green pass for an apparent 24-yard gain to the Razorback 18.
However, Garrett was flagged for pass interference. Instead of surging ahead for 24 yards, TU was penalized 15.
The net result was a 39-yard setback in field position, and the half ended with TU trailing by one point.
Blankenship’s reaction to the interference penalty: “I’ve been here (Fayetteville) before.”
Remember the Hurricane opener at Iowa State? Green was effective early, connecting on nine of his first 13 pass attempts. He was even better during Saturday’s entire first half – 15-of-18 passing for 119 yards. In no previous game did wide receiver Keyarris Garrett total more than six catches. At Arkansas, he had 12 receptions for 94 yards.
At 5-0 in Conference USA, the Hurricane resumes league play next week at Houston. On Saturday, with a 48-28 defeat at East Carolina, the Cougars dropped to 4-5 overall, 2-3 in C-USA.
“The conference championship has gone through Houston the last several years,” Blankenship said. “We were here in Arkansas back in ’08, then went to Houston and laid a big egg (a 70-30 defeat).
“We’ve got to find out if we’re physically and mentally tough enough to go back to Houston and be ready to play.”
Tulsa's Trey Watts heads toward the end zone for a touchdown during the first half of the Hurricane's game against Arkansas on Saturday. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World