Tulsa ends 14-year losing streak to Big 12 with win over Iowa State
BY ERIC BAILEY World Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 01, 2013
1/04/13 at 11:38 AM
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Tulsa wasn't intimidated by the Big 12 Conference school or Iowa State's 25,000 cardinal-clad football fans on Monday afternoon.
The Golden Hurricane, powered by its own rowdy group of approximately 5,000 followers and an opportunity to make school history, captured a 31-17 victory to win the Liberty Bowl.
Grant Detwiler pointed to the opposite side of Liberty Bowl Stadium, which was filled with Cyclones fans.
"This is incredible," said Detwiler, a TU senior who attended with his girlfriend, Corie Robertson. "This is one of those things where even though they have more fans, it's quality over quantity."
Tulsa won 11 games for the second time in school history while slicing a 16-game and 14-year losing streak to Big 12 schools. It was the first time, coach Bill Blankenship pointed out, that the program had a Liberty Bowl and Conference USA championship in an 11-win season.
Blankenship was Union High School's coach as recently as 2005. Now he's guided his alma mater to 19 victories in his first two years, which is second-best behind Todd Graham (21) in school history.
"We have a very tough-minded, physical, resilient team and I couldn't be prouder," Blankenship said.
Junior Trey Watts earned the game's most valuable player award and TU's outstanding offensive player award. Shawn Jackson, another junior, earned Tulsa's most outstanding defensive player award.
For 18 seniors, it was the ideal way to end their Tulsa football careers. It also was satisfying after hearing years of praise about the 2005 team, the last to win a Liberty Bowl and Conference USA title.
"I'm excited to be able to be spoken in the same sentence as the 2005 team," senior Cory Dorris said. "Being a part of this team means a lot to me."
Two players from the 2005 Liberty Bowl game were recognized during a TV timeout on Monday. Paul Smith and Garrett Mills know the thrill that the current team is experiencing.
"Every team wants to create their own identity - in 2005, everyone wanted to talk about the 2003 Humanitarian Bowl team and it was a big deal for us to do something unique," said Smith, now a financial adviser in Tulsa.
"Every team has their own story. They'd like to be the team that gets referred to for many years ... that could happen this year."
Mills ended his six-year NFL career in 2011 and is now going for his MBA at Northwestern University's prestigious Kellogg School of Management.
He hasn't forgotten his TU roots.
"I'm definitely excited about what Coach Blankenship has been able to do," Mills said.
As the clock ticked down, Tulsa fans began serenading the Liberty Bowl Stadium with chants of "T-U."
It brought a smile to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett's face.
"I'm proud to be the mayor of a great city with a great university," Bartlett said while wearing a Tulsa football letterman's jacket.
Original Print Headline: Ringing in a win
Eric Bailey 918-581-8391
Cory Dorris (right) holds up the Liberty Bowl trophy after Tulsa defeated Iowa State 31-17 in the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World
Jared Grigg celebrates after Tulsa beat Iowa State 31-17 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Monday. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World