A Tulsa team that has simply found a way to win all season did it again on Saturday.
Despite playing without quarterback Cody Green and running back Trey Watts, TU kept grinding and remained undefeated in conference play with a 28-24 win over Rice Saturday at Chapman Stadium.
Trailing 24-21 with 2:55 on the clock, Tulsa stood at its own 20 yard line, desperately needing someone to make a play.
Ja'Terian Douglas was that man.
Douglas took the first play of the drive and broke one of the most incredible runs you'll ever see for 75 yards all the way to the Rice five yard line. Douglas seemingly broke the tackle of every player on the Rice defense, keeping his feet for a Barry Sanders-like explosion. Two plays later, Alex Singleton ran it in and the Golden Hurricane took their first and only lead of the game.
Rice had Tulsa on the ropes right off the bat Saturday when Cole Way had his punt blocked and Rice's Sam McGuffie returned it 12 yards for the score, putting the Owls up 7-0.
TU battled right back, capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a record-breaking one-yard touchdown run by Alex Singleton to tie the game. It was the 33rd rushing touchdown of Singleton's career, leaving him all alone atop the school's all-time list.
Rice re-took the lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Taylor McHargue ran the keeper and scampered in for the 20-yard score to put the Owls up 14-7.
TU answered quickly on its ensuing drive when Douglas dashed 28 yards for the game-tying touchdown, but the Hurricane defense continued to struggle. Rice came right back and took a 21-14 lead when McHargue hit Luke Willson for the eight-yard score.
Tulsa had a chance to chip away later in the quarter, but freshman Daniel Schwarz missed a 32-yard field goal attempt.
Tulsa came out for the second half, but still looked out-of-sorts. Quarterback Kalen Henderson was struggling while the Rice defense continued to stack the box and stop the run. The Hurricane needed something to give them a jolt, and it came from a guy who's done it before.
Safety Dexter McCoil intercepted McHargue at the Rice 28 yard line, and on the very next play, Henderson found Keyarris Garrett for the 28-yard touchdown and just like that, the Hurricane tied the game. McCoil's pick was the 15th of his career, moving him into a tie for fourth place on Conference USA's all-time list.
Rice went back ahead on Chris Boswell's 35-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and it was up to Tulsa's offense to make a play. Instead, TU went three-and-out and gave it right back to the Owls.
Rice marched right back down the field and set up Boswell for a 36-yard field goal attempt, but he missed it slightly to the left, keeping the Tulsa deficit at just three.
It was do-or-die time for the Hurricane, and that's when Douglas decided to do.
Tulsa pulled out the win despite only managing 3-14 on third down, while Henderson was an erratic 8-23 passing. TU lost the time-of-possession battle by 11 minutes and had a nightmarish day on special teams. But good teams find a way to win, and Tulsa is a very good football team.
While nobody will call this win pretty, the Hurricane will certainly take it. Tulsa improved to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in C-USA play, while Rice fell to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
With Houston's loss Thursday night, Tulsa is now the only team in Conference USA's west division without a conference loss. This win keeps the Hurricane in the drivers' seat to reach the conference title game, while keeping spirits high heading into Arkansas following the bye week.