Another Hurricane comeback fizzles
Arkansas State runs out final 7:56 of clock after crucial safety
In a matter of seconds, the University of Tulsa's comeback attempt hit a major snag.
On a jet sweep, Keylon Stokes received the ball from Luke Skipper and was immediately met by an Arkansas State defender who delivered the tackle in the end zone for a safety.
“If we get to the outside, I think it's fixing to be a big hitter, but we just didn't get it communicated up front,” Hurricane head coach and playcaller Philip Montgomery said. “They had a good call into it (defensively) and we didn't handle it very well.”
In addition to surrendering two points in what had been a one-score game, the Hurricane also had to concede possession, a double-whammy that played a monumental role in a deflating 29-20 loss Saturday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Before the safety, momentum shifted in favor of TU, which was making a second-half rally for a third time in three games. But a crucial decision — Jarion Anderson opting to fair-catch a punt at the Hurricane 4-yard line — created poor field position with eight minutes left.
“(There was) plenty of time on the clock, and I think really we'd established some things offensively, felt confident about taking it down the field,” Montgomery said. “I thought we had plenty of time to do that.
“We were down by seven at that point, and being able to get points on the board will tie the ballgame up, still have some time left, and we'll see where we're at at that point.
After spotting Texas three touchdowns before coming alive last week in a narrow defeat, TU (1-2) got off to a good start offensively, striking first after forcing a fumble. Corey Taylor II punched in a fourth-down touchdown, the Hurricane's last trip across the goal line until the fourth quarter.
For the rest of the first half, the offense struggled significantly, producing 44 yards on its five other possessions, including three three-and-outs. Skipper was orchestrating a decent drive late in the second quarter when he was scrambling and lost a fumble.
“The first half was just one person here and one person there and you can't do that as an offense,” Skipper said. “That's how you get torn up, so we have to come together and go back to work tomorrow so this won't happen again.”
Arkansas State (2-1) cashed in with a last-second field goal for a 13-7 cushion at halftime and again early in the second half after Anderson fumbled following a completion. Oklahoma transfer Justice Hansen torched TU on the ensuing series with his legs, including on an 18yard run for a touchdown.
Another promising series was wrecked by a turnover when Skipper was hit while throwing and threw an interception that Demari Medley returned 53 yards for a TD.
Helped by a pair of thirddown plays from Skipper, TU advanced to the red zone on the next series. The next three plays netted 3 yards, and the drive concluded with a 22-yard field goal by Nate Walker.
With the Hurricane defense again standing tall and forcing consecutive punts, Skipper found tight end Cole Neph for a huge play on fourth down that produced a 10-yard TD.
Following a three-andout punctuated with a sack by Trevon Reeves on third down, TU used a long Shamari Brooks run to march down the field, but had to settle for another field goal by Walker.
After the safety, the Red Wolves were able to pick up five first downs and run out the final 7:56 on the clock for their first nonconference road win since 2008.
“I thought the second half … we kind of started getting on track,” Montgomery said. “But you can't wait that long, and (when) you've got opportunities, you've got to take advantage of them.
“I've got to do a better job of making sure that we're all in the right spot, and we've got to do a better job of just executing at a better level.”
Tulsa quarterback Luke Skipper tries to get away from the pressure by Arkansas State defenders Saturday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium.