TULSA, Okla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Three Tulsa touchdown passes from Cody Green to Keyarris Garrett led the Golden Hurricane to a 23-21 victory over UCF Saturday at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
UCF trailed 23-14 after three quarters. But the Knights pulled back within two with just more than nine minutes remaining in the contest. UCF running back Latavius Murray plunged into the end zone from two yards out to top off a 42-yard drive. The touchdown left the Knights down 23-21.
The Knights blocked a late field-goal attempt with 3:50 remaining in the contest to give UCF a chance at the comeback. But a one-yard run, two sacks and an incomplete pass ended the Knights' final possession.
Green passed for 252 yards on 21-of-34 passing with one interception for Tulsa. Garrett had seven receptions for 130 yards. Trey Watts rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries for the Golden Hurricane. For UCF, Blake Bortles was 13-of-31 passing for 169 yards and one score. Murray rushed 22 times for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Jonathan Davis paced the UCF defense with a career-best 17 total tackles and a forced fumble. Ray Shipman tallied 15 stops, also a career-high mark.
"I thought the game was all about their defense playing much faster than our offense played," UCF head coach George O'Leary said. "That's what caused the pressure on the quarterback and took some of the run game away."
Saturday's outcome sets up a potential rematch back here in two weeks for the Conference USA Championship. Coach O'Leary said his team needs to focus on next week's home game with UAB to get another shot at the Golden Hurricane.
"The big thing is we have to take care of business next week," he said. "That's what we have to do to win our division. We had an opportunity to get it done today and we didn't get it accomplished. I think there are a lot of guys that want to come back here and take care of some of the things we didn't get done. But we have things we have to take care of before we think about coming back here."
Tulsa jumped on top with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter. The Golden Hurricane got a 41-yard field goal from Daniel Schwarz to take a 3-0 lead. Tulsa grabbed a 10-0 advantage on its next possession. Garrett got behind the UCF defense and Green found him for a 70-yard scoring strike.
"We needed to get our running game going a little earlier," running back Latavius Murray said. "It was just unfortunate our offense didn't play the way we needed to play."
UCF pulled back within three, 10-7, with 10:26 left in the second quarter. Bortles began to scramble, kept his balance by putting his left hand on the turf and, just as he was about to go down, found a way to get a pass off. That aerial found wide receiver Breshad Perriman open in the end zone for an amazing, 21-yard scoring strike.
UCF got back-to-back takeaways late in the second quarter. After failing to convert the first into points, the Knights took advantage of the second one. A fumble recovered in Tulsa territory resulted in a missed 54-yard field goal. But a few plays later, Green tried to go deep and was picked off by the Knights' A.J. Bouye, who returned it down the Tulsa sideline, cut toward the middle of the field near the Golden Hurricane 20-yard line and took it the rest of the way for the fifth-longest interception return in school history. Bouye's pick-six put UCF on top 14-10 with 3:14 left in the half.
"I saw it was a bad throw and I just went for it," Bouye said of the interception and score. "Instead of running out of bounds, I was trying to score because we needed a momentum shift. I was thankful for J.D and all of them blocking for me. It wasn't enough this 'W', though."
Tulsa edged back in front in the third quarter. The Golden Hurricane drove 80 yards in nine plays. The drive was capped by a 20-yard Green-to-Garrett pass. The PAT was blocked by UCF's Jose Jose to keep the Tulsa advantage at two points, 16-14. With 5:11 left in the third quarter, Green hooked up with Garrett again for their third touchdown pass, giving Tulsa the 23-14 lead.