TULSA, Okla. (UCFAthletics.com) - A late punt return for a touchdown by Tulsa's Trey Watts pushed the Conference USA Championship Game into overtime. In the extra session, the Golden Hurricane (10-3) blocked a UCF field goal attempt and scored a touchdown to take the title by a final tally of 33-27.
"I think the wind had a lot to do with it, especially as far as possession and where the ball was. It played a big role as far as field advantage," senior RB LataviusMurray said about the winds gusting at an average of over 30mph. "Again, that is something that is happening and you have to work with and deal with. We didn't make plays when we needed to both on offense and defense. That's what it came down to."
UCF led 27-21 with just more than five minutes left in the game. UCF was forced to punt and Jamie Boyle's 44-yard kick was touched by the Knights. But the ball was not dead. Watts went back to the UCF 46-yard line, picked it up and raced down the Tulsa sideline for a 54-yard touchdown. The Knights (9-4) blocked the point-after-touchdown to keep the game tied at 27-27 and force the overtime period.
In overtime, UCF had the ball first and was forced to settle for a 38-yard field goal attempt. But the kick was blocked, giving Tulsa the opportunity for victory with a score. The Golden Hurricane got a 17-yard run from Watts to give them a first-and-goal at the UCF 6-yard line. Three plays later, Alex Singleton dove over from the 1-yard line to account for the winning score.
UCF trailed 21-14 at halftime. But the Knights scored 13 points in the third quarter to grab the 27-21 advantage.
With just more than four minutes remaining in the third , the Knights took advantage of a 5-yard punt into the stiff wind and took over at the Tulsa 27-yard line. Five plays later, Murray plunged in from two yards out. But the point-after-touchdown was blocked by the Golden Hurricane's Trent Martin, keeping Tulsa in the lead, 21-20.
Third-down conversions were key on the UCF drive to regain the lead late in the third quarter. On third-and-22 at the beginning of the possession, quarterback Blake Bortles found Breshad Perriman for a 39-yard gain through the air. Then, later in the drive on third-and-6 from the Tulsa 28-yard line, Bortles dropped back to pass, scrambled up the middle and went 28 yards untouched for the go-ahead score, putting the Knights on top 27-21. That score set up Watts' punt return - the lone score of the fourth quarter - which forced the overtime.
Tulsa took advantage of good field position to take an early 7-0 lead. Green found wide receiver Thomas Roberson over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The drive went just 38 yards after UCF punted 37 yards out of its own end zone into a wind blowing at more than 20 miles per hour. But it could have been worse. UCF fumbled the opening kickoff at its own 32-yard line but Kemal Ishmael forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Alexander on a fourth-down play inside the UCF 10-yard line to thwart the Golden Hurricane scoring threat.
On the second play of the second quarter, Bortles found Perriman along the end line of the end zone for an eight-yard scoring strike, tying the game at 7-7. Bortles was 4-of-4 passing for 56 yards on the 73-yard drive.
With just less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Bortles tossed his second touchdown pass of the game to give UCF the lead. He bought time in the pocket, waited for a receiver to clear and found Quincy McDuffie with an eight-yard bullet for the score, putting the Knights on top 14-7.
Tulsa answered with 2:35 left in the first half. The Golden Hurricane went 75 yards on the drive, capped by a 7-yard run from Alex Singleton, tying the game at 14-14. Tulsa then grabbed a 21-14 lead at the intermission, driving 80 yards in 1:02. Ja'Terian Douglas went two yards to cap the drive with 0:00 showing on the second-quarter clock.