Bad fourth quar­ter, penalty ham­per Hur­ri­cane up­set bid

Tulsa World - - Work&money - Bill Hais­ten Sports colum­nist bill.hais­ten @tul­

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.

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