Michael Peters: Happy ending to tough week for TU
BY MICHAEL PETERS World Sports Editor
Sunday, December 02, 2012
12/02/12 at 5:36 AM
Read Michael Peters’ blog.
For more TU stories.Original Print Headline: Happy ending eases pain of tough week
YOUR ATHLETIC DIRECTOR gets caught up in a gambling scandal and Conference USA loses two members four days before you play for a league football championship.
Your week-long ticket drive results in the smallest Chapman Stadium crowd of the season.
You have an interception, a fumble, miss four fourth-down tries, have a 5-yard punt and miss another extra-point kick in an attempt to beat Central Florida for the second time in three weeks.
If that sounds like a recipe for a low-water mark in Tulsa athletics, you'd be right.
But if you thought any of those things would derail one of college football's most resilient teams, you'd be dead wrong.
What started as an overcast and dreary morning ended with a ray of sunshine - both in the sky and on the field - as Tulsa players met at the 50-yard line after a wild 33-27 overtime win over Central Florida to celebrate a C-USA title and accept a bid to the Liberty Bowl.
"I'm pretty sure, across the board, everyone is sitting in the locker room thinking, 'All right, let's get this taste out of our mouth. Let's go back to work,' " said Tulsa quarterback Cody Green about his team's ability to rebound from adversity this season. "And after every loss, we've had our best practice week of the season. And this past week, we were firing on all cylinders."
The same, however, can't be said for the Tulsa athletic department as a whole. It was bad enough Tulsa stumbled in Dallas last week against SMU, taking some of the shine off Saturday's rematch with UCF.
And TU's athletic future was again clouded when Tulane and East Carolina announced their departure from C-USA to the Big East on Tuesday.
But things got exponentially worse later in the day when athletic director Ross Parmley was suspended for his involvement in an Oklahoma City gambling case.
Sometimes hires of convenience are easy for a reason. Parmley was a simple, in-house solution to TU's need for an athletic director 10 months ago.
That tenure will surely end this week when his paid leave becomes permanent amid an NCAA investigation that could further the pain of Hurricane fans.
But sometimes the easiest choice is the right one. That brings us to rock-steady Tulsa football coach Bill Blankenship. The former Union head coach and TU alum was a simple, although less-than-splashy, pick two years ago to run the Hurricane football program.
Two years, 18 wins and one conference championship later, few would argue Tulsa picked the right man at the right time. He was certainly the right man this week, being called on to save a sinking ship, while not taking personally fan support that could best be described as tepid.
"I think we've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of games," Blankenship said of his team's resiliency. "And there's just no shortcut to experience.
"We had a devotional chapel on Thursday and they talked about Secretariat and the big heart he had ... And it was a great challenge for our guys because that's the way they've played - with a lot of heart."
On Saturday, the Hurricane played with heart and smarts and a never-say-die attitude that lifted a Hurricane fan base that needed one.
Tulsa running back Trey Watts made one of the smartest plays of this or any season when he picked up a punt that had already been touched by Central Florida and surprised the entire Knights' return team by racing 54 yards for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Then in overtime it was the big hand of Cory Dorris blocking a field-goal attempt and the big rumble of Alex Singleton leaping over the top - scoring a second time after his first overtime touchdown was overturned by replay.
Soon after, the Hurricane was celebrating its first conference title since 2005 and contemplating what's next - the Liberty Bowl in four weeks.
So who will Tulsa play next?
"It doesn't matter," Singleton said. "We're coming. That's it."
On Saturday, that's just what a weary fan base needed.
TU’s Trey Watts runs back a punt for a touchdown in the fourth
quarter Saturday. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World