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September 23, 2012

Tulsa notches tough comeback win

Tulsa overcame an early 13-point deficit, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns by Fresno State, to rally for a 27-26 victory on Saturday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium.

Trey Watts found Thomas Roberson on a 26-yard tailback option pass for the go-ahead score in the third quarter, and the Golden Hurricane used defense and field position to protect the one-point lead.

On its final six drives, Fresno State advanced no farther than their 33-yard line, punting five times and having the clock run out on the last possession.

"Wow, you know, the best thing I can tell you is just so proud of our guys for not giving in," said Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship. "Absolute fabulous defensive effort. We made it so hard for them with how we played offensively in the first half especially.

"But then you come back, and really proud of the freshman kicker (Daniel Schwarz) knocking everything through -- that has been a little bit of a question mark. Then just offensive line got some yardage when we needed to grind it out there at the end."

Robbie Rouse ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and Derek Carr passed for 231 yards for the Bulldogs, but their defense was the points generator, as three interceptions led to touchdowns.

Patrick Su'a and Tristan Okpalaugo each raced to the end zone after picking off Cody Green, and Derron Smith's interception led to Rouse's 1-yard scoring run. Quentin Breshears missed an extra-point try for the Bulldogs and had another blocked.

After trailing 20-7, Tulsa came back on Green's 31-yard scoring toss to Keyarris Garrett and two Daniel Schwarz field goals.

Green struggled, completing only 13-of-37 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions. Jordan James had a breakout game with four catches for 84 yards. Alex Singleton led TU on the ground with 56 yards on 18 carries while Thomas Roberson had three catches for 65 yards and the game winning score.

"We knew that they were a good football team going in," Cody Green said. "Their coaching staff came from Texas A&M and put up numbers there, so we knew it was going to be a scratch and claw game if we were going to come out with the win.

"This is a huge statement game for our defense. Not every day do you throw three interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns, and then come out with the win by one point. So the defense was our best friend. They had a huge game. It was a statement game after giving up points they shouldn't have given up against Nicholls State. They came out with a chip on their shoulder and it showed."

Part of that strong defensive performance was due to Shawn Jackson, who returned from a three-game suspension. He had 11 tackles and a forced fumble as the Golden Hurricane completed the 13-point come from behind victory.

"Shawn was especially big," Blankenship described. "We wound up losing Trent (Martin) partway through the game. We had to move DeAundre (Brown) back into the middle. I know he missed a couple of tackles, some things that probably happen when you haven't been playing for three weeks. But it was a huge deal for our defense because of the emotional lift he brings."

Tulsa won its third straight game after a season-opening loss to Iowa State. The hard fought victory will serve the Hurricane well down the road.

"It was just crazy how hard it was," said Blankenship. "But I think you can grow from that. You know, it was a very hard win. We struggled to do anything really well consistently on offense. It's a great credit to their defense. Just what we thought they would do. They brought the pressure. We had a hard time handling. They're big and physical up front. We had a hard time moving them around.

"It was hard, but all the while the defense did a great job, they got down and then just kind of really bowed up."

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