University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery wouldn’t call the play lucky.
After TU took a 10-6 lead over SMU in a game the Golden Hurricane eventually lost 43-37 in three overtimes Saturday night, Zack Long was set up to kick the ball back to the Mustangs. The kick was short and to the right, landing just before the 15-yard line nearest the home sideline at Ford Stadium in Dallas. The ball landed on the green turf instead of in the arms of an SMU defender.
SMU’s CJ Sanders and Tyler Page froze because of miscommunication as the ball bounced between them. TU safety Kendarin Ray sprinted down the field, never hesitating.
“Really, I was just running to do my job, and that’s to set the edge for the kickoff returner,” Ray said. “I saw the ball hit the ground. I guess the dude from SMU probably thought it was going to go out of bounds or something. I just did my job, went to the ball and got on it.”
The ball rolled and rolled as Ray sprinted toward it and past the SMU return men. By the time the Mustangs realized what was happening, Ray already had too much of a head start to overcome. Ray jumped on the football in the right front corner of the blue end zone, with Sanders and Page on both sides of him, for his first career touchdown. The bizarre score gave TU a 16-6 lead in the second quarter, and the Hurricane’s second TD within a second’s time on the scoreboard.
“I guess you could use the word ‘luck,’ ” Montgomery said about the play. “I would prefer to use guys busting their tails — things that we talked about every day in practice — guys running down the field. …
“It’s a huge momentum deal for us right there, and a great play by Kendarin and our kickoff coverage team. When you get opportunities like that, you gotta capitalize on them, and I thought our team did.”
TU controlled the rest of the half, but the momentum gained must have been extinguished at the halftime break. The Hurricane eventually let a 21-point lead slip away before the game went through three overtimes and SMU receiver James Proche finally caught the game-winning touchdown.
But as everyone at Ford Stadium was captivated by the game unfolding on the field, the country was cackling about the Golden Hurricane’s wild touchdown on a kickoff. Video of the play was shared on social media pages of every national sports outlet, including an ESPN tweet that was retweeted more than 1,200 times.
The attention on the play had Ray’s phone buzzing in the locker room while he was still playing. He said he returned to notifications of texts and calls from friends and high school coaches.
But despite his 15 minutes of fame, Ray was was humble and quiet about the situation.
“It was pretty cool,” Ray admitted about the attention.