Tulsa 35, Memphis 14

Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 1:50 pm
By: News On 6

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)_ Tulsa methodically moved through Memphis both on the ground and through the air, capturing its fifth straight win.

Courtney Tennial rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Paul Smith threw for 217 yards and another touchdown Saturday to help the Golden Hurricane beat Memphis 35-14.

``These guys are playing with a ton of confidence,'' Memphis coach Tommy West said of Tulsa. ``Their quarterback is playing really well for them. They're big. They're seniors up front. They're huge, and they'll maul you.''

Smith completed 17-of-20 passes in the game, including all three in the second half, as Tulsa (6-1, 3-0 Conference USA), led from the start. Tennial's scoring runs came from 1, 2 and 3 yards, while rushing for 98 yards on 21 carries.

``For the most part, all I have to do is be efficient,'' Smith said. ``I don't have to be great. Just put the ball in the hands of the playmakers.''

From the opening drive, Tulsa controlled the game on offense, while the Golden Hurricane defense, ranked 14th in the country, controlled the Tigers (1-6, 0-3), who lost their fifth straight.

``We minimized the amount of big plays they could make. They have big play capabilities,'' Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe said. ``We held them to 14 points and kept them out of the end zone, except for one time in each half.''

Memphis managed 232 yards of offense, and only 75 on the ground. Quarterback Martin Hankins completed 24-of-37 passes for 157 yards against a Tulsa secondary ranked second in the nation in pass defense.

Tulsa showed early that it would control the ball. On their opening series, the Golden Hurricane took 16 plays to cover the 80 yards, including all three third-down conversions. Tennial carried the ball the final yard for an early Tulsa lead.

``We took nine minutes off the clock and got the score,'' Kragthorpe said. ``Just establishing the tempo. That's something we talked about _ to come out and establish the tempo of the game and see if they could match it.''

Tulsa held the ball for 13 minutes in the quarter. And on the fourth play of the second quarter, Smith scrambled long enough that Ryan Bugg broke free from the Tiger secondary and was alone near the end zone for a 41-yard scoring pass.

``I was able to keep my eyes up and see him waving his arms, hoping I would throw it to him because he was wide open,'' Smith said.

At that point, Tulsa had converted two 80-yard scoring drives and held the ball for 15 of the game's 17 minutes. In the first half, the Golden Hurricane converted 7-of-8 third down plays.

``The thing we did wrong was we didn't convert on third down defensively,'' West said. ``If we do, then we play a whale of a football game. But we didn't get off the field on third down.''

Each team would add a 4-yard touchdown later in the second quarter _ Tulsa's by Dexter Taylor, and Memphis' by Joseph Doss _ and the Golden Hurricane carried a 21-7 lead into the break.

Smith completed 14-of-17 for 157 yards, and at one point completed nine straight. The string was broken when the Tigers LaKeitharun Ford intercepted a pass just before halftime. It was the only first-half possession on which the Golden Hurricane didn't score.

Meanwhile, Memphis managed only 98 yards of offense in the half. Things were so bad that punter Michael Gibson, who entered the game averaging 47 yards a punt and hit his first one for 55 yards, shanked his second for a 9-yard kick.

Tennial scored twice after the break, while Memphis' only other score came on a 13-yard pass from Hankins to Carlos Singleton.

Still, the Tulsa defensive coaches were a bit too excited in the fourth quarter, Kragthorpe said. During the final period, the Tigers collected almost half of their total yards in the game, but the Tulsa leader wasn't as concerned as his defensive coaches.

``We knew we were up three scores with five or six minutes left in the game,'' Kragthorpe said. ``They weren't going to beat us nickel and diming us. They were going to beat us if we let them throw it over our heads.

``We wanted to minimize the big plays they could make, and I think we did a good job on that.''