Alex Singleton leaped into the end zone from one yard out and the Tulsa bench flooded the field as the Golden Hurricane won the Conference USA Championship, 33-27, in overtime, defeating UCF in front of a crowd of 17,635 Saturday afternoon at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Singleton's touchdown was the fifth play of Tulsa's overtime possession and his second dive toward the end zone, all coming after senior Cory Dorris blocked UCF's 38-yard field goal attempt in its turn in the extra period.
The Golden Hurricane tied the game with a 54-yard punt return by Trey Watts with 5:06 remaining in regulation.
TU trailed 27-21 when the defense forced UCF to punt. The Knights tried to bat the ball back toward to TU defensive goal, but the ball was not downed. Trey Watts picked the rolling football off the ground and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown knotted the game at 27 apiece after the point-after was blocked.
Watts totaled 210 all-purpose yards, including a 54-yard punt return that tied the game in the fourth quarter, and was named Most Valuable Player of the C-USA Championship Game. He rushed for 134 yards and added 22 yards in kickoff returns.
Tulsa (10-3) won its second C-USA title since joining the league in 2005, and its first since that year. As a reward for its championship, the Golden Hurricane will play in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31.
Singleton ran for 100 yards on 25 carries. He and Watts are the first TU pair to rush for 100 yards in the same game since Nov. 12, 2011 when Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas did so against Marshall.
The Golden Hurricane totaled 443 yards, including 290 on the ground. UCF (9-4) totaled 330 yards, including 136 on the ground. TU quarterback Cody Green was 14-for-25 passing for 153 yards and a touchdown to Thomas Roberson, who had four receptions for 68 yards.
Singleton's game-winning touchdown in overtime was his second of the game and the 41st of his career. He now owns the TU career total touchdowns record, and surpassed Tarrion Adams (2005-08) in the first quarter with his initial touchdown of the game.
Quarterback Blake Bortles completed 14-of-32 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another 60 yards to lead UCF (9-4). Latavius Murray rushed 21 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, and Breshad Perriman caught three passes for 65 yards and a score for the Knights.
The teams traded a pair of fumbles to open the game before Tulsa scored on its second possession.
The Golden Hurricane took full advantage of good field position after the UCF punt, and scored five plays later to take a 7-0 lead. Thomas Roberson broke free of the defender and Green found him wide open as he coasted into the end zone.
The Hurricane took over on its own 2 after forcing another punt, and moved 54 yards before an interception derailed the drive. UCF drove 73 yards, scoring on an eight-yard pass from Blake Bortles to Breshad Perriman to knot the score at 7-7.
UCF took over on its own 48 after a Tulsa punt, and drove 52 yards to score and take the lead with 4:53 left in the half. Bortles found Quincy McDuffie at the front of the end zone to make the score 14-7.
Tulsa took the ensuing kickoff and drove 75 yards in just seven plays to tie the game at 14-14 with 2:35 remaining in the half. Trey Watts sandwiched a 24-yard run between six runs by Singleton on the drive. The 260-pound senior sprinted through a large hole in the line and coasted into the end zone for his 40th career touchdown.
The Golden Hurricane took a 21-14 lead into the locker room at halftime after it closed the half with an 80-yard drive in the final 1:02. With 2nd-and-10 on the UCF 34, Green hit Roberson, who jumped over and battled the defender to come down with the ball on the 2. TU called timeout to set up a 2-yard pitch to Ja'Terian Douglas, who pushed his way into the end zone to give TU the lead for the first time since early in the first quarter.
In the second half, UCF took advantage of good field position after a short TU punt into the wind and scored on a two-yard run by Latavius Murray. The point after was blocked, making the score 21-20 with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
After another Tulsa punt, UCF drove 59 yards to take a 27-20 lead. Bortles completed a 39-yard pass to Perriman on 3rd-and-22 to extend the drive, then the quarterback raced 28 yards to give the Knights the lead with 2:19 on the clock.
Tulsa was stopped on 4th-and-1, but its defense stopped UCF on the following possession. The Hurricane drove to the UCF 11, completing a fourth down pass from Green to Roberson, but its second fourth down attempt fell incomplete. The defense's stop of the Knights set up Watts' game-tying punt return.
Following the Hurricane stopped UCF on its next possession and ran out the clock after taking over on its own 18, forcing overtime. It was the first overtime played in a C-USA Championship game, and first overtime for TU since 2009.