In the University of Tulsa's season-opening football contest on Thursday night, the Golden Hurricane did exactly what was expected of them, thrashing the visiting Division I-AA Stephen F. Austin, 45-7. The score could have been much worse had TU not pulled the starters in the middle of the third quarter, but several newcomers were able to gain valuable game experience for the future.
"I really thought we played efficiently in the first half, offensively, defensively and on special teams," said Tulsa Head Coach Steve Kragthorpe after the game. "Overall, I thought we did some good things. Obviously it's great to get the win and be 1-0, but there's a lot of things we can get corrected."
"In the second half, we got a chance to play a lot of guys, so it's very valuable experience for them. Now they've had a chance to have played in a Division I football game."
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Tulsa was absolutely dominating in the first quarter, racking up 10 first downs and 167 yards of offense and scoring touchdowns on its only two full possessions. The Hurricane defense held SFA to just 30 yards on 10 plays in the opening quarter, forcing two punts.
Sophomore running back Tarrion Adams did the opening damage. He hit paydirt from four yards out with less than five minutes gone to cap an 11-play, 75 yard drive. That was followed by a 36-yard scamper to the end zone after hauling in a Paul Smith screen pass with 4:47 on the clock to give TU a 14-0 cushion.
Tulsa opened the second quarter by extending their lead with a 28-yard field goal from Jarod Tracy. It was then time for the debut of Courtney Tennial as a collegiate running back. And it didn't take long for him to make his presence felt, scoring twice within a span of four and a half minutes.
Tennial pumped both fists after his first carry, then blasted into the end zone from 12-yards out for his first collegiate touchdown with 6:44 to play in the half. On the Hurricane's next possession, Tennial took a screen pass from Smith 25-yards for another score, providing a 31-0 lead.
"It was kind of different not having number twenty (Garrett Mills) out there tonight, but that new number twenty, Courtney Tennial, is pretty good," joked Kragthorpe. "We just want to continue to move the football in whatever way, shape or form it takes. We're just going to find ways to put it in guy's hands and keep on moving it."
"That was pretty neat to see (Tennial) out there moving around a little bit, gaining some confidence," Paul Smith added.
It appeared that Tulsa's performance in the first half might not go unblemished, as the Lumberjacks drove to the Hurricane's 31-yard line just before the half ended, allowing a 47-yard field goal attempt. But TU stepped up once again, as they got a hand on the ball to block the kick.
"Right at the end of the half, when (SFA) got a little bit of a drive going, we had to step up and block a field goal," Kragthorpe explained. "That was a big play for us."
With another touchdown at the beginning of the second half, the game continued to be lopsided in the Hurricane's favor, as they filtered in reserves. The scoring drive also began a list of firsts in the third quarter, with TU leading 38-0.
The touchdown was made by junior college transfer Nick Henderson on a four-yard catch from Smith, which made two firsts for Henderson – a catch and a score. Also during that drive, red-shirt freshman Jacob Collums got his first career catch with a 34-yarder.
On Tulsa's following drive, David Johnson entered for his first series of the season at quarterback. Tulsa had scored on every possession led by Paul Smith. Johnson hit Corey Kizer on a 14-yard pass-and-catch to give Kizer his first career catch in a Golden Hurricane uniform.
The third quarter also marked Tulsa's first punt of the game. TU punted on their next three possessions, which allowed Stephen F. Austin some scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter.
Tulsa thwarted one SFA drive deep into their territory with a Bobby Blackshire interception of quarterback Danny Southall inside the ten-yard line. But the Lumberjacks finally broke through with a 28-yard touchdown run by Vincent Pervis that culminated a 61-yard drive with 6:05 to play.
Just as things seemed to be fizzling out for the Hurricane, they answered quickly on their next possession. TU finally scored with Johnson running the offense, as he launched a 59-yard bomb to Collums, who notched his first career touchdown and provided the game's final margin.
The Hurricane amassed 521 yards of offense, while limiting the Lumberjacks to just 185. Paul Smith completed 16-of-20 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns, while senior Brandon Diles led the way on the ground with 61 yards on 14 carries.
Stay tuned to InsideTulsaSports.com for more photo features and other coverage from Tulsa's opening victory!
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