University of Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery watched the clock wind down until he called a timeout with two seconds left. He wanted to make sure that if Jacob Rainey’s kick went through the uprights, Memphis didn’t get a chance.
But Rainey’s 29-yard field-goal attempt went wide left as the clock expired. Memphis survived to beat TU 42-41 on Saturday night on the Golden Hurricane’s homecoming. The loss extended TU’s losing streak to four games.
“We just need to win. That’s all we need; no matter how we do it, what we have to do,” TU linebacker Zaven Collins said. “We definitely could have won it by stopping them and not letting them score on defense. If they don’t score, they don’t win. It’s not just (Rainey’s) fault, but it’s everyone’s, the whole team.”
The Hurricane spent most of Saturday night trying to keep up after Memphis jumped to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Running back Kenneth Gainwell scored first on a 20-yard run before Brady White found Antonio Gibson for a 40-yard touchdown later in the quarter.
TU never let the game get out of hand, though, despite the early deficit, and that gave the Hurricane a chance late. Just as it looked as if the Tigers were about to run away with the game early, TU running back Shamari Brooks sprinted for a 40-yard TD to start the second quarter. Memphis answered, though, with a 2-yard TD run from Calvin Austin III.
The Hurricane started a back-and-forth trend, as Corey Taylor II punched it in from 1 yard out. Taylor notched three touchdowns in the game, later scoring a 31-yard TD in the third quarter. His third score also came in the third quarter — a 2-yard run that put TU within four points.
After Taylor’s first touchdown, Memphis needed to convert a fourth-and-10 with a fake punt to keep its scoring chances going. Memphis punter Adam Williams lobbed a 29-yard pass to Austin to convert the fourth down and set up a touchdown pass from White to Joey Magnifico. Rainey’s 32-yard field goal to end TU’s next drive was the last points of the first half, as the Tigers led 28-17 at halftime.
Taylor’s second TD of the game was the first points of the second half before Gainwell ran for a 62-yard TD between Taylor’s second and third scores.
The Hurricane then scored 17-unanswered points after Gainwell’s long run. After Taylor scored his third TD of the night, Zach Smith hit JuanCarlos Santana for a 14-yard score to give TU its first lead with 5:19 left, 38-35. The Hurricane then added a field goal to extend its lead to 41-35 with 5:14 left.
Gainwell eventually struck again, though. He capped a quick, 41-second drive with a 1-yard TD run, which was his third score of the game. TU responded with a quick drive of its own, but after being stalled inside Memphis territory, Rainey missed the field goal that would have ended the Hurricane’s losing streak.
“People can say what they want to about me,” Montgomery said, “but those guys in that locker room, I want it for them. They work too dadgum hard and sacrifice a lot. They deserve it.”
The loss narrowed the Hurricane’s chances down to one to become bowl eligible. Needing six wins to earn a bowl berth, TU is four shy at 2-6 with only four games left on its schedule. Meaning if TU loses one more game, the Hurricane’s chances to play in a bowl game are erased. The Hurricane hasn’t played in a bowl since 2016, when TU went 10-3 and played in the Miami Beach Bowl.
“You’re backed into a corner now,” Collins said. “You have no room for mistakes, no room for nothing. It’s not like we’re sitting at 7-0, and you lose a game, then whatever. It’s, you lose a game, you’re done. That’s what it comes down to. That’s the line that we’re at now.”