Bad fourth quarter, penalty hamper Hurricane upset bid
Five years ago, there would not have been a flag on this play. During the final minute of Friday's American Athletic Conference football game at H.A. Chapman Stadium, the University of Tulsa had a two-point lead and South Florida had the football at midfield.
After Bulls quarterback Blake Barnett released a pass, he was pushed to the turf by Golden Hurricane defensive end Trevis Gipson. Barnett was not hit or driven to the turf. He wasn't even shoved. By football standards, it was a soft tap — but it happened after the pass was released.
Penalty flag. Roughing the passer. Fifteen yards.
As it pertains to
quarterback protection, NFL officials have become ridiculous with silly flags. On Friday night, that same level of officiating sensitivity extended to USF-Tulsa.
It was a garbage penalty, but at the same time, there has to be restraint. It wasn't as if irreversible momentum carried the TU defender into the quarterback.
When Gipson put his hands on Barnett, the ball was long gone. Three plays later, so too was Tulsa's chance to steal a huge victory.
With two seconds remaining in a game that TU seemed destined to win, South Florida's Coby Weiss booted a 22-yard field goal.
The 23rd-ranked, unbeaten Bulls danced away with a 25-24 triumph.
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery's assessment of the roughingthe-passer penalty: “I've got to be real careful about what I say. I saw the ball going down the field. I never looked (at the backfield) because I thought everything was clean.
“That is a tough call, right there in that situation at that time of the game. If it wasn't really, really obvious, and if it wasn't a true, hard roughing, I don't think you make that call right there.”
Gipson or any other TU defender won't be blamed for the outcome. Matched with a South Florida team that entered with a scoring average of 37 points per game, the Hurricane defense was mostly effective.
Tulsa needed some offense in the clutch but got nothing.
Literally nothing. During the fourth period, when first downs would have extended possessions and burned the clock, the Hurricane offense totaled zero yards on nine plays. Meanwhile, South Florida had fourth-quarter totals of 31 plays and 214 yards.
The Hurricane was doomed to a sickening defeat that lengthened its losing streak to five games. This makes it doubly sickening: Through the first five games of the season, TU committed 16 turnovers. On Friday, there were none, and the Hurricane still found a way to lose at the end.
With 7½ minutes left, TU had a 14-point cushion. Running back Shamari Brooks and the Golden Hurricane defense deserved to win, but the offense failed to close the deal.
Because the Tulsa passing game was so sub-standard, with Seth Boomer finishing 6-of-21 in his first home start, Montgomery's late-game play-calling was massively conservative.
After having limited South Florida to three first-half points, TU was on course to record what would have been its first conquest of a nationally ranked opponent in eight years.
The Tulsa records are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the AAC.
During the last season and a half, the Tulsa record is 3-15.
Boomer was a weapon in the run game, scrambling well and totaling 46 yards, but TU will find it extremely difficult to beat any opponent with such an ineffective passing attack.
While South Florida won for the 16th time in its past 18 games, the Hurricane fell short in its bid to beat a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since Christmas Eve in 2010. In that game — Todd Graham's finale as the Hurricane coach — TU smashed No. 24 Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl.
On its home turf, the Hurricane still hasn't beaten a nationally ranked opponent since Nov. 27, 2004, when a 4-8 TU team upset No. 24 UTEP 37-35.
On Friday, because there were no turnovers, TU positioned itself for something special.
Stunningly, it didn't happen.
Montgomery's attempt to restore morale must begin immediately because the Hurricane has a special-occasion opportunity again next week — a road date with an extremely vulnerable Arkansas squad.