Give Me Liberty: Tulsa Wins C-USA Championship

Saturday, December 1st 2012, 5:57 pm
By: News On 6

Four quarters wasn't enough to decide one of the tightest Conference USA championship games in history.

Alex Singleton made sure that overtime was plenty.

Singleton slammed into the end zone from a yard out to give Tulsa a wild 33-27 overtime victory over Central Florida, clinching the Golden Hurricane's first C-USA championship since 2005.

The victory gives Tulsa another 10-win season and clinches a spot for the Hurricane in the Liberty Bowl.

Things got off to a fast start for the Hurricane when UCF's Quincy McDuffie fumbled the opening kickoff and Tulsa's Michael Mudoh recovered at the Knights' 32 yard line.

The Hurricane marched it inside the 10, and on 4th and 1 at the UCF eight, TU turned to its "A-Train," Alex Singleton.

But the train got derailed, and while Singleton attempted to stretch for the first down, the ball popped loose and UCF took over at its own five.

The TU defense responded, backing the Knights up to their own two before making them punt.

TU took over at the Knights' 38 and this time knew what to do with it. Cody Green found Keyarris Garrett for 18 yards, and three plays later, Green found Thomas Roberson on a slant for a 20-yard touchdown to put TU up 7-0.

Tulsa forced the Knights to punt on the ensuing drive and the Hurricane took back over at their own two. TU put together an impressive 13-play drive, but it ended poorly when Green's arm was hit on his 3rd and 10 pass and the ball wobbled into the arms of Terrance Plummer at the UCF 27.

The Knights took advantage, storming down the field for a 10-play, 73-yard drive that ended when Blake Bortles found Breshad Perriman in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, tying the game at seven.

After the two teams exchanged punts for a stretch, scoring resumed late in the quarter when McDuffie made up for his opening-kick fumble. On 3rd and goal from the eight, Bortles found McDuffie in the end zone to put the Knights up 14-7.

The Golden Hurricane looked sleepy and the energy that Chapman Stadium generated early on was gone. TU needed a wake-up call, and got one.

The train was back on his track. TU's ensuing drive came with a heavy dose of Singleton, toting the ball six times for 36 yards including a seven-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.

The TU defense forced a Central Florida punt and the Hurricane got the ball back at its own 20 with 1:02 left in the half. With just 41 seconds left, TU faced a third down from its own 24, appearing to be content with a halftime tie. But Green scampered eight yards for the first down and Tulsa decided to get aggressive.

Green hit Keyarris Garrett for 19 yards and then threw one up for grabs to Roberson who hauled it in at the two yard line with just two seconds left. The 32-yard play left coach Bill Blankenship with a tough decision. Blankenship left the offense on the field and it paid off.

Green tossed it to Ja'Terian Douglas who powered into the right side of the end zone to give Tulsa the 21-14 lead at the half.

TU took the opening drive of the second half and drove 31 yards to UCF 44, but Green's 4th and 1 quarterback sneak came up short and TU failed to score on yet another trip into UCF territory.

Things took a turn for the worse when Cole Way's punt sailed just five yards and was downed at the TU 27 yard line.

Central Florida cashed in five plays later when Latavius Murray plunged in from two yards away. The Knights were an extra point away from tying it, but Shawn Moffitt's kick was blocked to keep the score 21-20.

After a Tulsa three-and-out, UCF got right back at it. On 3rd and six from the TU 28, Bortles took off on a keeper up the middle and nobody touched him. The touchdown gave the Knights a 27-21 lead.

Tulsa answered with an 11-play, 51-yard drive, but once again couldn't finish. On 4th and one at the UCF 27, Singleton got stuffed and TU came away empty-handed once again.

After forcing a three-and-out, The Golden Hurricane got right back at it. Tulsa drove 36 yards to the UCF 11, and yet again TU elected to go for it on fourth down. Green threw a hopeless pass into triple coverage intended for Thomas Roberson that fell incomplete and Tulsa failed to get points again.

TU finally broke through later in the quarter on one of the oddest punt returns you'll ever see. With 7:28 to play, Jamie Boyle's punt bounced around midfield and looked to be rolling to a stop when Trey Watts ran in out of nowhere and scooped it up. The UCF coverage team looked confused and stopped running, but Watts sure didn't. In fact, he sprinted 54 yards down the left sideline all the way to the end zone to tie the game at 27-27. TU could have taken the lead but Daniel Schwarz' extra point was blocked.

UCF got one last shot to win it before overtime, but the Golden Hurricane defense held strong and forced the game to extra time.

Central Florida got it first, but the Hurricane stood strong and forced Moffitt into a 38-yard field goal try. The kick was just low enough for Cory Dorris to get his hand on it and deflect it wide. Chapman Stadium exploded as the Golden Hurricane got the ball with a chance to win it.

It looked like it might end on the second play when Trey Watts broke a tackle and took it 16 yards, but a UCF defender finally managed to trip him up at the 6. Two plays later, it appeared to be over when Alex Singleton stretched for the goal line and the officials signaled touchdown. The Hurricane players stormed the field in celebration, but UCF wanted a review. After the replays, the officials ruled Singleton was down inside the one. While the review overturned the call, it just delayed the inevitable. Singleton plowed into the end zone one the next play to give Tulsa the undeniable victory.

Singleton finished the day with 100 yards on the ground and two scores, moving him past Matt Forte and into the No. 4 slot on Conference USA's all-time rushing touchdown list with 40.

Trey Watts' day was equally impressive, totaling 134 rushing yards and that crucial punt return touchdown to tie the game. Watts also passed the 2,000-career rushing yard mark. He and Douglas are now the first Golden Hurricane teammates to both reach the 2,000-yard mark since Micheal Gunter and Ken Lacy did so in 1982.

The Golden Hurricane will now celebrate the victory while they wait to learn their Liberty Bowl opponent.