Tulsa scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the game and never looked back on its way to a 34-20 Conference USA victory at UTEP in front of a crowd of 22,158 Saturday evening at Sun Bowl Stadium.
The Golden Hurricane improved to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in C-USA play, while the Miners fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in C-USA.
Tulsa held the Miners to just two first-half field goals, but the home team scored two touchdowns in second half bringing the Hurricane lead to just seven points. TU pulled away again, however, as a second Carl Salazar field goal and a Cody Green touchdown plunge extended the advantage to 34-20 with 10:47 left in the game, and Tulsa hung on for the win.
"It's big for us. We needed a conference win," Tulsa Head Coach Bill Blankenship said. "We have no non-conference games left so we have to crawl out of that hole one game at a time. We go into a bye week that will really help us. Hopefully we can get a little healed up and get ready for Tulane. It is very important to get that first one."
Led by Trey Watts' 142 rushing yards and Cody Green's 226 passing yards, the Golden Hurricane totaled a season-high 430 yards of total offense. Green completed 14-of-17 passes and tossed two touchdowns. Thomas Roberson caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown - his first 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Three Hurricane players tallied at least 10 tackles, led by Michael Mudoh's 12 stops. Trent Martin, seeing his first action since Sept. 14, tallied 11 tackles and Shawn Jackson picked up 10 tackles. Jackson intercepted his third pass of the season and second in as many weeks, and true freshman Will Barrow nabbed his first career interception.
Tulsa took the opening kickoff 76 yards in eight plays, and for the first time this season scored a touchdown on their opening possession. Ja'Terian Douglas ran the final three yards for the Hurricane score and a 7-0 lead.
The Miners took their first possession 48 yards, but a tackle by Trent Martin on 3rd-and-3 at the Tulsa 27-yard line forced UTEP to settle for a 45-yard Jay Mattox field goal.
The Hurricane responded with a 75-yard scoring drive in eight plays on its second possession as Cody Green threw to Keevan Lucas in the corner of the end zone for 24-yard score. The Salazar PAT gave the Hurricane a 14-3 lead at the 4:06 mark of the opening period.
The Tulsa scored on their first two possessions marked the second consecutive week that the Hurricane has scored on their first two drives, but the first time that Tulsa scored touchdowns on the first two possessions.
Green connected with Thomas Roberson on two straight passes on Tulsa's third possession covering 49 and 35 yards, the second reception in the end zone for Tulsa's third TD of the game putting the Hurricane ahead 21-3. The drive covered 87 yards in four plays and took just 2:17 off the clock.
UTEP's field goal attempt from the 27-yard line before halftime was blocked by Tulsa's Mitchell Osborne to keep the score at 21-6.
At the intermission, Tulsa held a 256 to 159-yard edge in total offense, while the Miners had more than a five-minute advantage in possession time, 17:31 to 12:29.
The Miners opened the second half with an Autrey Golden 100-yard kickoff return to cut Tulsa's lead to just eight points at 21-13. Tulsa went 54 yards in eight plays before the drive stalled at the Miner 21-yard line, but Carl Salazar added three points with a 38-yard field goal, giving the Hurricane a 24-13 lead.
After the Tulsa defense held the Miners on fourth down-and-four from the Hurricane 44-yard line, Tulsa went 48 yards in 10 plays, but once again had to settle for a Salazar field goal, this time covering 27 yards to put Tulsa ahead 27-13 with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.
UTEP took just 1:29 off the clock to cut the Tulsa lead to seven points, 27-20, on a Jameill Showers screen pass to Jordan Leslie, who raced 71 yards for the score at the 1:13 mark of the third period.
The Hurricane responded with an 11-play, 68-yard drive that saw Green take the quarterback sneak in for two yards and the score, giving Tulsa a 34-20 lead with 10:47 remaining in the game.
Tulsa is off next Saturday before visiting C-USA West Division-leading Tulane (5-2, 3-0 C-USA) on Saturday, October 26th for a 2:30 pm game at the New Orleans Superdome.