ORLANDO, Fla. - G.J. Kinne threw for a go-ahead touchdown and Kevin Fitzpatrick added three field goals as Tulsa hung on to beat Central Florida 24-17 on Thursday night. It was the Golden Hurricane's first victory this season after trailing at halftime and came despite settling for field goals on three trips inside the red zone.
Tulsa won its 10th straight Conference USA football game dating back to last season. They stopped UCF on fourth and goal with under five minutes to play and then sealed the game when Alex Singleton ran for a first down with 1:45 on the clock.
Singleton's game-clincher was a 17-yard scamper to the left side on third-and-seven from the Tulsa 21 yard line. It was his third straight run of the drive.
"We did not underestimate UCF," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship. "Road wins in this conference are tough and I count this as a big one. They made it tough on us."
The Knights (4-5, 2-3 Conference USA) lost at home for the first time this season, while Tulsa (6-3, 5-0) remained unbeaten in the league.
UCF, the defending conference champions, controlled the game early, but failed on a fourth-down pass midway in the fourth quarter that allowed Tulsa to run out the clock.
Kinne finished 15 of 28 for 203 yards and he led the Golden Hurricane in rushing with 92 yards on 14 carries.
It was just enough to outduel Knights' quarterback Jeff Godfrey, who had one of his best games, throwing for 226 yards and one touchdown.
"It was a big win," Kinne said. "It wasn't pretty at times. But in the fourth quarter, we got the job done when we needed to. That was really our first close game of the year. So this was a good one for our team. We're going to need that down the road."
Blankenship gave a lot of the credit to his quarterback, who he said "willed us down the field" with his scrambling and throwing ability in the fourth quarter.
Tulsa entered Thursday's game injury-free, but played part of the second half without running back Trey Watts, who left the game after taking a blow to the head.
Cornerback Milton Howell, who tied a school record with three interceptions last week, was also shaken up several times in the game.
The Golden Hurricane came in having outscored their opponents 154-71 in the last four wins.
The Knights used a field goal to briefly take a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Tulsa needed just over three minutes to drive 72 yards to take a 24-17 lead on a 16-yard pass from Kinne to Clay Sears with 8:23 to play.
UCF responded quickly, using a 41-yard pass from Godfrey to J.J. Worton to set up a first-and-goal. But a fourth-down pass by Godfrey into the end zone was incomplete.
Tulsa took over on downs and was able to run out the clock.
"It was a game of big plays, and we didn't make enough of them," Knights coach George O'Leary said. "I told the players the effort was good. It's just that when you have the opportunity to make plays, you've got to make them. We didn't do that."
TU receiver Jordan James had six catches for 74 yards and linebacker Curnelius Arnick finished with a career-high 19 tackles. It is the most since Chris Chamberlain made 20 stops against Houston in 2007.
Tulsa finished with 251 rushing yards against a UCF team that was giving up only 84 yards on the ground per game. It is the most rushing yards surrendered by UCF in 66 games, dating back to 2006.