Tulsa needs to shake off SMU loss to win C-USA title
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Monday, November 26, 2012
11/26/12 at 5:27 AM
And just like that, Central Florida has momentum while the University of Tulsa has issues.
Only eight days ago, the Golden Hurricane defeated the Knights 23-21, securing Conference USA's West Division title and, as it turned out, the right to host this week's league championship game - Saturday's 11 a.m., ESPN2-televised rematch with UCF at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
TU surely would have a psychological edge. While dreading a return trip to the Hurricane's ballpark, the Knights would be dogged by the memory of having been limited by TU to two offensive touchdowns and 66 rushing yards.
But as the regular season came to a close, the Knights finished in a positive manner (a 49-24 victory over UAB) and Tulsa did not. The Hurricane lost 35-27 at SMU.
When UCF and the Hurricane clashed on Nov. 17, each team was 8-2 overall and 6-0 in Conference USA. Today, both teams are 9-3 and 7-1. The championship-game winner represents Conference USA in the Dec. 31 Liberty Bowl at Memphis, Tenn.
At SMU, the Golden Hurricane was guilty of three first-half mistakes that resulted in three Mustang touchdowns. TU lost senior right offensive tackle Brian DeShane to a leg injury. TU trailed 35-6 late in the third period.
After he attended church on Sunday morning, Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship was asked how much recovery time would be required before his team could shake the disappointment of the defeat in Dallas.
"Hopefully, about an hour from now," Blankenship said. "We can't afford to wallow in it. We have to move forward.
"I think we've got to get past this emotionally. We took a pretty big hit yesterday. We've got to make sure our guys remember that we are champions. We have to work every day. We're not good enough to just roll it out there and win games."
When a 22-point halftime deficit became a 29-point deficit in the third period, Blankenship searched the Tulsa sideline for any signs of life.
"The hole was so deep," he recalled. "I didn't know if we would fight to get out."
While it wasn't enough to undo the damage caused by terrible first-half execution, the Hurricane did not quit. During the final 17 1/2 minutes of Saturday's game, TU had 297 total yards and three touchdowns. SMU had 41 yards.
"From that," Blankenship said, "I took away a little bit of a positive."
Incredibly, Tulsa finished with a 591-305 edge in total yards, a program-record total of 103 offensive plays and 413 passing yards - and still lost.
SMU entered with an overall record of 5-6, and Blankenship expresses the belief that his players weren't psychologically ready.
"I think they overestimated the gap between the two teams," he said. "You just can't do that with any opponent. You would certainly think that UCF would have our attention."
Sept. 1: at Iowa State L, 38-23
Sept. 8: vs. Tulane W, 45-10
Sept. 15: vs. Nicholls St. W, 66-16
Sept. 22: vs. Fresno St. W, 27-26
Sept. 29: at UAB W, 49-42
Oct. 6: at Marshall W, 45-38
Oct. 11: vs. UTEP W, 33-11
Oct. 20: vs. Rice W, 28-24
Nov. 3: at Arkansas L, 19-15
Nov. 10: at Houston W, 41-7
Nov. 17: vs. UCF W, 23-21
Nov. 24: at SMU L, 35-27
Dec. 1 : C-USA championship 11 a.m.
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: Tulsa must shake off tough loss to take title
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
TU coach Bill Blankenship walks off the field after the Golden Hurricane fell to SMU 35-27 on Saturday in Dallas. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World