On a dark and dreary night in green country, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane had an opportunity to do something special. They were primed for their first top 25 win since 2010. Tulsa had control of the game and was playing solid defense leading 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter. But, that’s when things starting to turn south. South Florida scored 15 points in the fourth quarter to provide heartbreak in Tulsa town with a 25-24 come from behind victory.
Learning how to win
After a 10-3 record in just his second season in Tulsa, Philip Montgomery has just three wins in the last 18 contests. Of course, talent at the quarterback position has been a big reason for the losses. However, this Golden Hurricane team has not yet learned how to win. In all five defeats this season, Tulsa has either led or been within one score in the final quarter.
Most notably, Tulsa has carried leads into the final frame over the final two weeks on the road against Houston and at home against South Florida. The Golden Hurricane have been outscored 39-3 in the last stanza to rip defeat from the jaws of victory while moving to 0-2 in American Athletic play. But, there are several positives to take away from these losses.
Defense Making Strides
Over the first three quarters, Tulsa kept an extremely explosive South Florida team at bay. The only touchdown surrendered was a 66-yard Jordan Cronkrite touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. The defense was able to apply pressure and confuse Alabama transfer Blake Barnett for much of the game. Barnett only completed 17 of his 39 pass attempts on the night. Credit goes to that up front pressure and secondary play as Barnett was never able to get comfortable in the pocket.
Now, that defensive play must carry over in the last quarter for Tulsa to start winning football games. Particularly in the game-winning drive, but throughout the quarter South Florida was able to sustain drives by getting first down scrambles on broken plays. Tulsa must continue to compliment all levels of its defense to maintain the defensive intensity for 60 minutes.
Baby Boomer Must Improve in the Passing Game
Seth Boomer was inserted in the starting lineup last week against Houston and looks to be the quarterback of the future for Tulsa. But, he will need to improve his accuracy for the Golden Hurricane. He completed just six of 21 passes on the night. Boomer is still learning the intricacies of quarterbacking at the college level. However, he has learned to use his feet as an extra weapon. He was an extension of the running game with 11 carries for 46 yards.
Boomer had replaced Luke Skipper as the starting quarterback in the lineup against Houston. The replacement was to give a spark to the quarterback play. Even with the accuracy struggles, Boomer has mostly avoided the big mistake. This is evident as he did turn the ball over against South Florida. The ability is there and when he puts both parts of his game together Tulsa will have a formidable weapon.
Tulsa just couldn’t stop the downward momentum in the fourth quarter. Everything that went wrong late in the game did. Tulsa had possession of the needing one first down to end the game, but couldn’t get it done. Then, Tulsa seemingly had South Florida in a fourth and long position but a roughing the passer penalty extended the game. Barnett found Tyree McCants for a 32-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining. Any one of about five plays essentially went the way of the Bulls to allow them to stay undefeated.
Now, Tulsa heads into a stretch where they three fairly winnable games. Next Saturday, the Golden Hurricane step out of conference play to face the Arkansas Razorbacks. And, they follow that up with back to back home games against Tulane and Connecticut. Even a 2-1 stretch will do wonders for this teams confidence. Timely defense and better production at quarterback may do just that.