Tulsa's early trouble dooms quest for second win

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Saturday, October 20, 2018
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery talks to an official during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery talks to an official during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

— Even though his squad was just 1-5 entering its game with Arkansas on Saturday, Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery and his players believed they were improving and fully expected to leave Fayetteville with a win.

That was especially true after strong safety McKinley Whitfield picked off Razorback freshman quarterback Connor Noland’s second pass of the day and set the Golden Hurricane up deep in Arkansas territory.

But Tulsa kicker Nate Walker missed a 28-yard field goal, would miss another later in the first quarter and it became a sign of things to come as Arkansas blanked Tulsa 23-0 before a crowd of 40,128 at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

“It is not a setback,” Montgomery said. “We got beat today because we didn’t put points on the board offensively. We didn’t come in here and get blown out. If we are putting points on the board and taking advantage of the opportunities that we had, this is another one of those type of games. I don’t see it as we came in here and got blown out.

“I don’t feel that way. Our guys battled, our guys fought. We have to do something offensively to keep ourselves in the game.”

Tulsa was coming in off a 25-24 home loss to No. 23 South Florida and had also played Texas to a 28-21 game in Austin earlier in the season.

The missed field goals kept Tulsa from getting off to a fast start it needed according to Montgomery.

“I think it makes a huge difference,” Montgomery said. “Right there, you go up 3-0 and then you could have gone up 6-0. You want points out of those drive and you want them from the standpoint of touchdowns. You have got to break the ice on the scoreboard and we did not do that today, which makes it very, very frustrating.

“But you are also capitalizing on the momentum of the game. We just get a big turnover on the first drive. If you get points out of that, you go back out defensively, get another good stop and we have a chance to get more points on the board. You have got to make the most of those in every game.”

The Golden Hurricane had help in the Texas and South Florida games from their offense, but had only 260 yards total offense on Saturday with 68 of those coming on a pass inside the final two minutes of the game.

“I thought defensively that we really played a pretty good game,” Montgomery said. “We had opportunities in there, especially early in the game. Got the quick turnover, got great field position and offensively we have got to go get points out of that.

“We can’t let things slip away like that. We let two field goals slip away from us in the first and offensively we have got to really produced in those situation. I thought we sputtered around and were just really inconsistent offensively. We have got to be much more consistent from that standpoint.”

Montgomery gave credit to Arkansas (2-6), which had lost six straight games this season before beating Tulsa for the 19th straight time dating back to 1976.

“Take you hat off to Arkansas,” Montgomery said. “I thought they played a nice game, did some good things, but I think we had some opportunities in there that we didn’t make the most of and we have to continue to stay tight and grow as a team.

“We have a bunch of young guys that have got to step up and keep playing and growing and learning. But that is where we are at in our season. So again I thought our defense played well enough to win, but offensively we just didn’t get it done.”

Tulsa redshirt freshman quarterback Seth Boomer was 8-of-25 passing for 127 yards with an interception and was sacked six times, including 3 1/2 take downs from McTelvin Agim.

Montgomery was asked if he thought about taking about Boomer and going with back up Chad President, who was last year’s starter.

“Boom is growing and learning,” Montgomery said. “The only way he is going to continue to get better is to continue to go through some of the things that he is going through right now.

“It was good to see him make that throw there at the end. He has just got to be more disciplined with his eyes. He has got to be more consistent. We had some things open. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”

Noland was making his first career start and went 10-of-16 for 124 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I thought he did some good things,” Montgomery said of Noland. “He has a lively arm. I thought we did a good job of putting pressure on him. We needed to really do a good job and at times throughout the game I thought we did of getting him behind the chains and putting him in predictable situations.

“Any young quarterback, just like we are dealing with, you get them in third and long and that puts a lot of pressure on him. You can change up your looks, blitz him at times, drop into coverage, make him do some things and that is always hard on young quarterbacks. He’s learning just like ours is trying to learn.”

Montgomery said he did not see any quit in his team despite a sixth straight loss since a season-opening win over the University of Central Arkansas.

“I did not,” Montgomery said. “Our defense fought until the bitter end and offensively those guys are continuing to fight. It was good to see Sleep (Keylon Stokes) make a play there late, but I didn’t see our guys give up. That is not in our DNA. At that point, you just have got to continue to keep battling, pushing and driving and playing with the energy level that we have been playing with all year.”

Arkansas’ first touchdown of the game came after a unsportsmanlike penalty on JuanCarlos Santana, who got the penalty despite not playing in the game.

After a bad snap was going to leave the Razorbacks with a 3rd-and-18 at the Tulsa 27, Tulsa was first flagged for targeting.

The targeting was overturned, but Santana made contact with a referee during the review and that penalty gave Arkansas a first down at the 13 instead.

Noland eventually hit tight end Grayson Gunter on a 7-yard touchdown pass - his first career scoring toss - that got Arkansas ahead 10-0 with 1:25 left in the first half.

“We had a young kid on the sideline that just doesn’t need to do that,” Montgomery said. “We learn from it and I will obviously take care of that when I get back.”

Tulsa was led on defense by redshirt freshman linebacker Zaven Collins with 14 tackles and Whitfield, who had 11 tackles and three pass break ups to go along with his interception.

“The mindset all week was to come out and play ball, play fast, play physical and communicate,” Whitfield said. “We knew what they were doing on offense because we had watched so much film on them.”

Whitfield admitted the missed field goals were tough.

“It sucks, you know what I mean, but we had three quarters left to play so I was just thinking he missed it and we have got to go on and play,” Whitfield said. “It was like he missed it, well, we have to go out there and get a stop again.”

Montgomery praised Whitfield’s effort.

“McKinley has stood out all year long,” Montgomery said. “He is a bright spot, a great leader for us, he hates to lose and he plays with the type of passion that you want a guy to play with. He is going to battle every second that he has got on the clock. He is - in my opinion - an NFL-type player and a guy that brings it every day to practice and backs it up when he gets on the field.”

Collins was disappointed that Tulsa could not grab that second win.

“We have just got to find a way to win,” Collins said. “That is all it comes down to - win or lose. We knew coming into this game that one of us - either us or Arkansas - was going to be 2-5 or 2-6, whatever it is. We just need a win. That is all it comes down to.”

Tulsa hosts Tulane next Saturday.

“We have got to be resilient,” Montgomery said. “We are built on things that are more than just winning and losing. Our team is strong and our family has got to stay tight from that standpoint and we have got to continue to keep fighting.”

Montgomery was asked what he could do to help his team break the losing skid.

“We’re trying,” Montgomery said.

Discussion

Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.