Michael Peters: TU has the last laugh against Houston
BY MICHAEL PETERS World Sports Editor
Sunday, November 11, 2012
11/11/12 at 5:47 AM
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Original Print Headline: Michael Peters: TU has the last laugh against Houston
HOUSTON - Somehow, it just seemed fitting.
Playing its last game against Houston as Conference USA rivals, Tulsa left Robertson Stadium the way the Golden Hurricane has felt so often against the Cougars - empty.
As the final minutes ticked away in TU's 41-7 bashing of Houston, only a handful of the announced homecoming crowd of 25,827 were left in the stands.
Most of them sat in the southeast corner and were wearing blue and white.
For the 20-somethings on the Hurricane roster, Saturday's win was significant mostly as another step toward a C-USA West Division crown.
But to someone like Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship - and likely to many left cheering in that corner Saturday night - this game meant so much more.
"For this team, it was just important to finish well," Blankenship said. "It was important to go into next week with momentum, to play as well as we did down the stretch.
"The other side of that is, being an alum and lettermen, it's not lost on me the history. To think this could be the last time we play for a while, it was an important win for us."
The series between Houston and Tulsa is extremely close. Saturday's win brought the Hurricane within two games all-time (UH leads 20-18).
But many of the margins haven't been nearly that close. There was the 48-16 loss a year ago at Chapman Stadium, a game that could have given TU the C-USA West title.
There was the 70-30 blemish Houston put on TU's 2008 West title, or scores of 73, 100 and 82 run up during the history of the series.
More recently, however, it's been the gall of the college football world to pay more attention to Houston - even if Tulsa has accomplished just as much.
In the past six years, Houston has won three C-USA West Division titles. So has the Hurricane.
In their last year before moving to the Big East, the Cougars won't add another. But after Saturday, Tulsa (8-2 overall and 6-0 in the league) just might. The Hurricane needs one more win to clinch the West Division. If it comes next week against Central Florida, TU would get a home game Dec. 1 for the conference title.
"That was an important factor for our team, too," TU defensive coordinator Brent Guy said of playing Houston for the final time in C-USA. "It was 3-3 for championships. By winning this game, they can't win one. But we can win one."
Folks around the Tulsa program talk about the uncertainty involved with Houston, Central Florida and SMU leaving C-USA for the Big East.
But even with the new-look Big East's big fall in prestige, you know it must aggravate Tulsa fans the Golden Hurricane wasn't invited.
Especially when you look around Robertson Stadium, the 70-year-old facility that will be torn down after this season to make way for a new stadium.
Tulsa has the facilities and the championships to match the Cougars. But the Hurricane doesn't have the geography conference realignment covets.
Now, however, Tulsa has something that might be almost as good - the last laugh on the field against Houston.
And in four weeks, it could have another C-USA title as well.
Tu's Ja'Terian Douglas looks for space during the second half of the Tulsa v Houston football game at Robertson Stadium in Houston, TX. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World