Dec 20, 2021; Conway, South Carolina, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3) is tackled by Old Dominion Monarchs safety Terry Jones during (13) in the 2021 Myrtle Beach Bowl at Brooks Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa storms past Old Dominion to win Myrtle Beach Bowl

Davis Brin passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns to help Tulsa post a solid 30-17 victory over Old Dominion on Monday afternoon in the Myrtle Beach Bowl at Conway, S.C.

Josh Johnson caught eight passes for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Golden Hurricane (7-6) won their fourth consecutive game. Shamari Brooks rushed for 107 yards and a score on 26 carries to move into second place in school history with 3,729 yards, passing Tarrion Adams (3,651 yards from 2005-08).

Ethan Hall also caught a touchdown pass and Zack Long booted three field goals for Tulsa, which outgained Old Dominion 529 to 247 while controlling the contest. The Golden Hurricane had a huge edge in plays (99 to 47) and first downs (35 to 10) while controlling the ball for 39 minutes, 43 seconds.

LaMareon James returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for the first of Old Dominion’s two touchdowns. Hayden Wolff completed 19 of 28 passes for 176 yards and one interception and Blake Watson rushed for 77 yards and a score for the Monarchs (6-7), who had a five-game winning streak halted.

James supplied electricity at the outset by navigating his way down the field for his second kickoff return of the season.

But the Golden Hurricane needed just 1:42 to answer and Brooks capped the seven-play, 74-yard drive by scoring from the 1.

Tulsa moved ahead 14-7 later in the quarter as Brin (22-of-34 passing) tossed a 23-yard scoring pass to Johnson with 4:47 to go.

Old Dominion’s Nick Rice kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:50 left in the second quarter, but Long countered with a 35-yarder with nine seconds remaining to give the Golden Hurricane a 17-10 halftime lead.

Long added field goals of 25 and 32 yards in the third quarter to boost Tulsa’s advantage to 23-10.

The Monarchs threatened early in the fourth quarter as Wolff connected with Ali Jennings III for 30 yards. But Tulsa’s Tyon Davis punched the ball out of Jennings’ grasp inside the 5-yard line, and it rolled into the end zone and out the right side for a touchback.

The Golden Hurricane responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that increased their lead to 30-10. Brin capped it with a 4-yard toss to Hall with 9:04 left in the contest.

Watson scored on a 2-yard run to pull Old Dominion within 13 with 7:15 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA;  Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys won 28-23. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Resilient ODU, Tulsa meet in Myrtle Beach Bowl

When Old Dominion was wallowing with a 1-6 record in mid-October, losing eight or more games seemed much more likely than securing a bowl berth.

But the Monarchs stunningly turned their season around with five straight wins, and their reward is a date with Tulsa on Monday in the Myrtle Beach Bowl in Conway, S.C.

Things looked bleak when Old Dominion was routed 43-20 by Western Kentucky on Oct. 16. But the Monarchs of Conference USA won three games by 14 or more points during their hot streak.

Old Dominion (6-6) now plays in a bowl game for the second time since becoming an FBS program in 2013. The first was a 24-20 win over Eastern Michigan in the 2016 Bahamas Bowl.

“I love our story. I love this season. It’s the most fun season I’ve ever been a part of,” Monarchs coach Ricky Rahne said. “The kids never changed, never blinked. They believed in our coaching staff; our coaching staff believed.”

The Golden Hurricane (6-6) also finished strong to land a bowl berth, winning their last three games by a cumulative 98-54.

Tulsa played a tough schedule that includes road losses to three teams that were in College Football Playoff contention — Cincinnati, Ohio State and Oklahoma State. In the second game of the season, the Golden Hurricane led the Cowboys in the fourth quarter before falling 28-23 in Stillwater.

Tulsa was 1-4 after it was steamrolled 45-10 by Houston on Oct. 1. More than a month later, the 28-20 loss to CFP-bound Cincinnati left the Golden Hurricane with a 3-6 mark — but they rattled off wins over fellow American Athletic Conference foes Tulane, Temple and SMU to earn the bowl invitation.

“We take it one game at a time, and every game that we get to play with each other is something big,” said Tulsa receiver Josh Johnson, who has 75 receptions for 985 yards and five touchdowns this season.

Golden Hurricane running back Shamari Brooks (3,622 career yards) needs 30 yards to surpass Tarrion Adams (2005-08) and move into second place in school history.

The defense is led by defensive tackle Jaxon Player, who has 13.5 tackles for loss.

“We worked all year to get here, so why not go out with a bang?” Player said. “We’ve been through a long season. Going 6-6 is rough, but we made it here. I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

The Golden Hurricane, who are 10-12 in bowl games, will try to slow down a trio of strong Old Dominion offensive players.

Running back Blake Watson (1,035 rushing yards) topped 100 on the ground six times, Zack Kuntz (71 catches for 674 yards and five scores) ranks second nationally in catches by a tight end, and receiver Ali Jennings III is eight yards shy of reaching 1,000.

Linebacker Jordan Young has a team-high 83 tackles for the Monarchs, who are now bullish on their abilities.

“We grew in some confidence, I would say,” Rahne said of the late-season stretch. “But in terms of our toughness and ability to compete, no, this team has shown me that from Day 1.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the first half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

SMU looks to rebound in finale vs. Tulsa

Tanner Mordecai looks for a bounce-back performance on Saturday afternoon when SMU hosts Tulsa in the teams’ regular-season finale in Dallas.

Mordecai completed 15 of 26 passes for just 66 yards and a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 48-14 setback to No. 5 Cincinnati last Saturday. The four-time American Athletic Conference Player of the Week had averaged 326.4 yards passing and 3.7 scores over his previous 10 games for SMU (8-3, 4-3).

The Mustangs’ prolific offense was held under 200 yards after averaging nearly 500 yards entering the game. SMU was 2-for-11 on third downs and was on the wrong end of the time of possession battle by nearly 11 minutes.

“We’ll go look at the film, try to make improvements, do what we can to get better,” Mustangs coach Sonny Dykes said, “but the big thing we’ve got to do is get it behind us because this is one of those losses that will jolt you a little bit if you let it. We don’t want that to happen.”

SMU has followed a 7-0 start by losing three of its last four games. The lone win in the latter sequence was a 55-28 rout of UCF, a decision that improved the Mustangs to 5-0 at home this season.

The Golden Hurricane (5-6, 4-3) have answered a two-game losing skid with a 20-13 overtime victory over Tulane on Nov. 13 and a 44-10 romp over Temple last Saturday. The total points against the Owls were the most by Tulsa this season.

“So really proud of the way our team played, these seniors, and what they’ve done,” Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery said. “That’s probably our most … complete game as a team.”

Josh Johnson recorded a career-best 159 receiving yards and an 8-yard touchdown vs. the Owls. He had 20- and 35-yard touchdown receptions against SMU last season as Tulsa overcame an early 21-point deficit in a 28-24 victory.

Fellow senior Shamari Brooks sits 100 yards shy of tying Tarrion Adams (3,651, 2005-08) for second place on the school’s all-time rushing list.

Davis Brin, a redshirt junior, completed 18 of 30 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns against Temple. He also rushed for another.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Greenville, North Carolina, USA;  Temple Owls quarterback D'Wan Mathis (18) looks over at the sidelines during the first half against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Temple tries to snap five-game skid, ruin Tulsa’s senior day

Temple will hope to avoid a sixth consecutive loss when it battles host Tulsa on Saturday.

The Owls (3-7, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) last won 34-31 against Memphis on Oct. 2. Since then, they’ve been outscored by a whopping 217-35.

Temple has been besieged by injuries and has continued to play a bevy of freshmen.

“I feel like we have a good, young nucleus,” Temple head coach Rod Carey said. “They’re on their way to being experienced.”

The Owls’ most recent defeat came against No. 24 Houston, falling 37-8 last Saturday.

Once again, they will have some uncertainty at quarterback going into this road matchup. D’Wan Mathis has been struggling with a couple of nagging injuries and it’s unclear whether he’ll start. Justin Lynch is also a strong possibility.

“I know there’s improvement,” Carey said of Mathis’ health. “I don’t know the extent of that improvement.”

The Owls don’t have much to play for except to carry positive momentum over into the offseason. But don’t tell that to Carey with all the hard work the senior leaders have put in to the program.

“We have a good group of seniors that are fully engaged and competing,” he said.

Tulsa will look to keep its postseason bowl hopes alive with a win over Temple. Tulsa also has one final regular-season game against Southern Methodist and could finish 6-6 to potentially qualify for a bowl.

The Golden Hurricane (4-6, 3-3) put themselves in position to inch closer to bowl contention with a thrilling 20-13 win in overtime over Tulane last Saturday.

Justin Wright played a large role in the victory with 12 tackles on his way to being named AAC Defensive Player of the Week.

While Tulsa looks to be favored over the reeling Owls, nothing is guaranteed.

“It’s college football,” Tulsa’s Jaxon Player said. “You can’t base (an opinion of) anybody off their record. Everybody shows up on Saturday.”

Tulsa will be facing Temple for the first time since 2018.

Since this will be the final home game for the Golden Hurricane, especially their 23 seniors, they hope to come out with extra intensity. Especially if they want to keep their bowl hopes alive.

“We’ve been in a lot of tight ballgames. We’ve won a few. We’ve lost a few,” Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery said. “All of our intentions are on the next game. All of our focus is on Temple. To have control of our destiny is a good thing.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell looks on before the NCAA football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Albert Cesare / The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Cincinnati focused on wins, beating Tulsa, not rankings

The No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats claim not to be worried about rankings, but stockpiling wins. And the next opportunity to chalk up another victory is Saturday when the Tulsa Golden Hurricane visit Nippert Stadium.

The Bearcats (8-0, 4-0 AAC) aim for their second consecutive 9-0 start and face the team that nearly denied them that record in 2020. The Hurricane (3-5, 2-2) dropped a 27-24 decision at the end of regulation in Nippert last fall. UC moved to 9-0 with a victory in the AAC Championship Game.

But more than a title game rematch, the game offers the Bearcats another chance to potentially impress the College Football Playoff selection committee. The 13-person committee will decide the four teams that qualify for the playoff. Despite a perfect record and a road win at Notre Dame earlier this season, the Bearcats are assured of nothing so far.

The initial CFP rankings came out Tuesday night. UC quarterback Desmond Ridder was asked to appear on the broadcast. He declined.

“As much as we want to be on (the show), that’s not something we’re focused on right now,” Ridder said earlier Tuesday. “If it was a show about the (AAC) standings, I probably would have joined it. Because we can’t do anything without these next four games and the conference championship game.”

Ridder, 39-5 as a starter, was named as a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award and has thrown for 1,847 yards with 21 total touchdowns. But Ridder is just one part of a balanced Bearcats’ outfit. Running back Jerome Ford has rushed for 846 yards and is tied for third in the nation with 14 rushing touchdowns.

Cincinnati is the only team in the country to have a top-10 scoring offense (39.9 ppg, 9th) and defense (14.3, 2nd). The Bearcats trail only Georgia in scoring defense. UC’s 14 interceptions also rank second in the country.

Still, head coach Luke Fickell said he doesn’t have time to delve into playoff potential.

“I’m not saying ignore the hype … but if you ingest it all, it will mentally wear you out,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready. We got a battle on our hands and (last year) in some ways they outplayed us.”

Tulsa pushed Cincinnati to the limit a year ago. The Hurricane are in the midst of a lowering tide in 2021.

Philip Montgomery’s team ranks just eighth in the AAC in both scoring offense and defense and last week lost 20-17 at home to Navy. The Midshipmen won despite failing to complete one forward pass.

“We have an opportunity to go up there and do some special things,” head coach Philip Montgomery said. “All year long they’ve been one of the best teams in the country. We’ve got to focus on us and what we have to do to give ourselves a chance.”

The Hurricane have tools to limit the number of possessions and grind out an upset bid. Tusla has six individual 100-yard rushing games this season, and running backs Shamari Brooks (588 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Deneric Prince (406, 3 TDs) ranked fifth and sixth in the AAC, respectively, in rushing on a per-game basis.

Tulsa leads the all-time series 17-16-2, but the Bearcats have won two straight head-to-head matchups.

Cincinnati will be trying to keep pace with Houston (7-1, 5-0) atop the AAC and has another hurdle to clear this month in the form of SMU (7-1, 3-1). But like a spot in the playoff, those are concerns for another day. UC hopes to make it 25 straight home wins, and 12 in a row against AAC focus on Saturday.

“With everything going on, we just have to be able to handle it,” Fickell said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Annapolis, Maryland, USA;  Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo reacts during the first half Cincinnati Bearcats at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Desperate Navy looks to end skid at Tulsa

After a third straight loss, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo this week described mixed emotions in his team’s locker room Monday following yet another missed opportunity against an imposing foe.

The Midshipmen will be eager to use those emptions to turn their season around when they travel to Oklahoma to face Tulsa on Friday night.

Navy (1-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) led No. 2 Cincinnati for much of the first half last Saturday before the Bearcats pulled ahead 27-13 midway through the fourth quarter. Navy strung together a long touchdown drive and recovered an onside kick in the final minute before Tai Lavatai threw an interception with 25 seconds to play.

Navy previously challenged another unbeaten conference foe, current No. 19 SMU, before losing by seven on Oct. 9. Niumatalolo insisted a 28-20 loss on Sept. 25 to Houston, which is now 6-1, belongs in the category of missed opportunities, as well.

“We just had our team meeting. Guys are disappointed but also encouraged,” Niumatalolo said. “Basically three top 25 teams have been one-score losses. But you still lose the game, you know what I mean?”

The 15th-year head coach is using the losses as learning moments for his players to rectify mistakes and botched plays that have contributed to Navy’s dismal record. The Midshipmen must win out to become bowl-eligible and avoid their third losing season since 2018.

“I told them at the beginning of the year, this was the hardest schedule since I’ve been here. … But I also told them I really believe we had a chance to beat everybody — but everybody had a chance to beat us,” he said.

Tulsa (3-4, 2-1) is coming off its bye week after winning two straight, most recently a 32-31 squeaker over South Florida on Oct. 16. Senior running back Shamari Brooks ran in the winning touchdown for the Golden Hurricane in the final minute.

Tulsa is 3-1 in its last four games, with Brooks notching at least 22 carries, 126 yards and a touchdown in each win. Those efforts quickly turned the Tulsa native into the AAC’s fourth-leading rusher on the year (561 yards).

“I do think our running game has really picked up pace in the last several weeks,” coach Philip Montgomery said. “I think there’s more continuity right now. Offensive line-wise, we’ve got to try to stay healthy there. … Shamari has carried a lot of the load.”

Tulsa will honor alumnus and Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Drew Pearson at halftime of Friday’s game.

The Golden Hurricane defeated Navy 19-6 in last year’s meeting, snapping Navy’s five-game winning streak in the series.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; South Florida Bulls quarterback Timmy McClain (9) looks to pass in the second quarter against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

South Florida’s AAC losing streak looms large against Tulsa

Tulsa will be looking to remain in the conference title hunt while South Florida will just be seeking a win period when the two teams meet in an American Athletic Conference clash Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.

The Golden Hurricane (2-4, 1-1 AAC) have won two of their last three outings after holding on for a 35-29 win over Memphis last week while the Bulls (1-4, 0-1) are coming off an open date with only a win over Florida A&M, an FCS foe, on the positive side of their ledger.

The Bulls have not won a league game since Nov. 26, 2019, when they beat East Carolina 45-20. Their conference losing streak reached 12 games with their 41-17 loss to SMU in their last outing.

Second-year coach Jeff Scott sees the open date as a chance to refocus the season.

“Our season is not going to be determined by our first five games,” he said. “It’s really going to be determined by our last seven games.”

Despite the record, Scott sees some positives in the Bulls’ early play. They outscored Florida 17-7 in the second half of a 42-20 loss to the Gators, got a 28-6 gap down to one score in a 35-27 loss at BYU, and were within 10 points late in an eventual 41-17 loss to SMU.

“We showed in two quarters in a couple of these games what we’re capable of,” Scott said, “but we’ve got to be a lot more consistent.”

True freshman Tim McClain (54 of 92 passing for 781 yards) will be making his fourth consecutive start at quarterback against a veteran Tulsa defense that starts four graduates along with five seniors and two juniors.

The Hurricane also have a two-prong rushing attack behind Shamari Brooks (416 yards) and Anthony Watkins (282).

Tulsa has an open date after this but then takes on Navy and league leader Cincinnati its next two games.

“It’s a difficult week and we don’t want to be thinking ahead,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “I don’t think we can afford to do that at all.”

–Field Level Media

Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) throws the ball against Oregon Ducks during the fourth quarter in their NCAA Division I game on Saturday, September 11, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

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No. 9 Ohio State seeks redemption at home vs. Tulsa

Ohio State looks to restart its quest for a national title when the No. 9 Buckeyes host Tulsa on Saturday.

The Buckeyes (1-1) were ranked third last week before then-No. 12 Oregon handed them a 35-28 loss in Ohio Stadium, ending the third-longest active FBS home winning streak.

It was also the first regular-season loss for Ryan Day since becoming head coach before the 2019 season.

“You find out a lot about people, find out about their true character,” Day said. “A great opportunity for our guys to learn about that and grow.”

Tulsa (0-2) gave Oklahoma State all it could handle before losing 28-23 on Saturday.

Tulsa’s tough loss last week was a better performance than the season opener when UC Davis stung the host Golden Hurricane 19-17 for their first loss to a lower-level Football Championship Subdivision team in more than 30 years.

Seventh-year Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery looks forward to the challenge of facing what should be a motivated Ohio State team.

“The good part about our football team is we played in front of a lot of big crowds and in a lot of big stadiums since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s a special place, obviously, with all the tradition and the history that goes along with it.

“We’ve been in loud stadiums before and now it’s just about us going in and handling the environment in between the lines and executing plays.”

All the pressure is on the Buckeyes to replicate the 2014 season when they also lost the second game, at home to Virginia Teach, but went undefeated the rest of the way to win their most recent title with a victory over Oregon in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game.

Ohio State’s turnaround must start with an improved defense that has put defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs on the hot seat.

In their first two games, the Buckeyes allowed Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim to run for 163 yards, while Oregon’s CJ Verdell had 161 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown.

Day said changes in roles for the defensive staff have been discussed.

“We are looking at all those types of things,” he said. “No hard decisions have been made.”

Deneric Prince has rushed for 180 yards and two TDs in two Tulsa games and the Golden Hurricane are averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

The Buckeyes allowed Oregon’s rushers a 7.1-yard average per carry and did not have a sack for the first time since 2018, stats that give Tulsa’s Montgomery hope.

“It’s about us going up and finding ways to move the football, being unique in that part of it,” he said. “You’ve got to continue to find chain movers if you will.”

There’s no question Ohio State can move the ball. The 612 total yards vs. Oregon were its most ever in a loss. C.J. Stroud threw for 488 yards, second-most in program history, but the Buckeyes failed to score four times in the first half when they had the ball inside the Ducks’ 40.

Day doesn’t blame Stroud.

“For me to do what I need to do on offense, I need the defense to be on point,” the coach said.

— Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2020; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Tulsa Golden Hurricane teams fight after the game at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Postgame brawl mars Tulsa-Mississippi State bowl game

An ugly postgame brawl erupted after the Armed Forces Bowl between No. 24 Tulsa and Mississippi State on Thursday and at least one player was injured.

Tulsa safety Kendarin Ray was helped off the field after reportedly being hit in the head by a helmet. Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery said Ray is being treated for a concussion.

Video of the brawl show players from both sides throwing punches and even a few are seen delivering kicks. Coaching staffs of both teams were powerless to stop it and Fort Worth security and law enforcement personnel were on the field trying to calm the situation.

After Tulsa safety Tieneal Martin threw some punches and fell to the ground, Mississippi State receiver Malik Heath can be seen delivering a kick to Martin’s facemask.

Montgomery says his players were just sticking up for one another.

“The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that is going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle,” Montgomery said. “We’re a team that has battled all year long. We battled again today.”

The teams also had to be separated prior to the game, so tensions were high throughout Mississippi State’s 28-26 victory.

Afterward, Bulldogs coach Mike Leach implied his team wasn’t the cause of the incidents.

“I’m not sure what exactly caused that,” Leach said of the postgame skirmish. “There was something before the game, too. We never had any problem with that the entire season, so you know, I can only guess without seeing the film.

“But prior to this game, we’ve never had any trouble with that.”

Asked how he would address it with this team, Leach said, “Don’t do it anymore. It’s just dumb. There was some of that stuff going back and forth in the course of the game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA;  Tulsa Golden Hurricane linebacker Zaven Collins (23) gets ready for a play during the game against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulsa won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Tulsa LB Collins to skip bowl game, enter NFL draft

Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins announced Thursday he’s heading for the NFL, a day after he won the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the best defensive player in college football.

He’s leaving the program immediately and won’t play in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 31 when Tulsa (6-2) faces Mississippi State (3-7) in Fort Worth, Texas.

“In support of my family and my dreams, I would like to announce that I am declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft and I am turning my focus towards preparing for this dream,” he posted to Twitter. “I wish all my teammates the best of luck in the Armed Forces Bowl.”

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior registered 53 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles in eight games for the Golden Hurricane. He returned two picks for touchdowns: 38 yards at South Florida (Oct. 23) and 96 yards vs. Tulane (Nov. 19).

–Field Level Media