Tulsa Falls in C-USA Championship to UCF 44-25
Dec. 1, 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. - UCF claimed a 44-25 win against Tulsa depriving the Hurricane of its second C-USA Football title in the last three years. Three Tulsa turnovers, a punt return and UCF's Kevin Smith helped the Knights to its first C-USA crown in front of 44,128 fans at Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Tulsa's Paul Smith completed 28-of-55 passes for 426 yards and three TDs, while UCF's Smith, the nation's rushing leader, tallied 284 rushing yards and four TDs. Tulsa, the nation's leading offense, gained 470 yards, while UCF totaled 436 yards with 308 coming on the ground.
After the game, UCF received the invitation to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, while Tulsa was invited to the GMAC Bowl.
"We're very excited about going to the GMAC Bowl. We think it's a great bowl and an opportunity on January 6th to be the last bowl. It's great national exposure for our program and playing a great opponent in Bowling Green," said Graham. "We're looking forward to it. Our team has an opportunity to win 10 games, to tie the school record for most wins in school history. We're looking forward to being in Mobile on January 6th and hoping to bring home a bowl championship."
After the two teams combined for 54 first-half points, neither team scored for nearly 11 minutes in the second half. UCF broke the drought with a 21-yard Michael Torres field goal. The score was set up by a Jason Venson interception return to the Tulsa 36-yard line.
UF added another field goal at the 0:03 mark of the third quarter, this time from 45 yards out, to take a 37-23 lead into the fourth quarter. With just under 12 minutes left in the fourth period, Tulsa went to the UCF one-yard line, but on four plays could not manage a score as UCF held on fourth down and goal from the two-yard line.
After that UCF defensive stop, the Hurricane defense had one of their own sacking Kyle Israel in the end zone for a safety. Roy Roberts returned the subsequent kick 27 yards to the UCF 46-yard line, but could not capitalize.
UCF outscored the Hurricane 13-2 in the second half.
UCF showed early in the contest that Smith would be a big part of the Knights offense. UCF scored on its second possession of the game as Smith ran 35 yards to get UCF to the Tulsa 14-yard line, but the Hurricane defense stiffened and held UCF to just three yards, forcing a 27-yard field goal.
The Knights added an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown by Joe Burnett on the subsequent punt to take a 10-0 lead at the 7:52 mark of the first quarter.
The Hurricane answered that score with a 65-yard, seven-play drive that saw Smith throw the final 22 yards to Charles Clay for the touchdown, marking his 40th TD pass of the season.
After Alain Karatepeyan recovered a fumbled snap at the UCF 48-yard line, Tulsa couldn't manage much offense on three plays. But, Tulsa faked a punt on a Smith to Chris Chamberlain 40-yard pass to put the Hurricane at the UCF 8-yard line. Smith then hooked up with Jake Collums in the end zone for a nine-yard TD, giving the Hurricane a 13-10 lead. The Tulsa PAT was no good for Jarod Tracy.
UCF was driving at the end of the first quarter, as the Hurricane held on for a 13-10 first period lead. The Knights scored seven points on a Kevin Smith three-yard TD run at the 13:18 mark of the second quarter, giving UCF a 17-13 lead.
A major turning point in the game occurred in the second quarter when an eight-yard touchdown run by Smith at the 11:36 mark of the second quarter that would have given the Hurricane a 19-17 lead was negated when a UCF challenge proved Tulsa had 12 men on the field for the scoring play. Then on third-and-goal from the 35-yard line, Smith threw an interception that was returned to the UCF 31-yard line.
UCF scored 0:29 seconds later as Smith ran 46 yards to cap a 69-yard, two-play drive. On the subsequent Tulsa possession, the Hurricane marched 72 yards in six plays as Smith threw his third TD pass of the game, a 27-yarder to Trae Johnson.
The Knights responded with a 69-yard drive as Smith scored on his third TD run of the game with a four-yard rush at the 3:29 mark. The Hurricane moved down field and got three points on the first field goal try for Jarod Tracy in six games, as he connected on a 22-yarder with 1:38 remaining in the first half.
The halftime score had UCF ahead 31-23, while the Hurricane held a 311 to 272-yard edge in total offense. Tulsa threw for 290 yards, while UCF rushed for 176 yards in the first half.
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