There was a time when it looked as if Tulsa was coming back with a chance to pull off an upset. But as has been the case often this season, the foe would break away to afflict a rout.
Such was the case Friday night as the Golden Hurricane were dealt a 49-32 defeat at the hands of East Carolina in its season finale and what might have been Bill Blankenship’s last game as coach. His coaching record through four years went down to 24-27 after the loss.
Since winning championships in Conference USA and the Liberty Bowl two seasons ago, Tulsa is now 5-19, including 2-10 this season, it’s worst record since 2002. Posts were being around game time on Twitter reporting that Blankenship would be fired after the game. As of Sunday, that has not happened.
The Golden Hurricane, who finished with an American Athletic Conference record of 2-6, drew to within 28-25 with 5:52 left in the third quarter when Dane Evans hit Keyarris Garrett in the end zone from 30 yards. Evans connected with Josh Atkinson on the two-point conversion on the next play.
But just as TU got close, the Pirates (8-3, 5-2) answered, then put the game away. Cory Hunter and scored on a one-yard run 33 seconds later. That was set by a 54-yard run by Chris Hairston on the previous play.
Shane Carden, who threw for four touchdowns and 338 yards, would add another from two yards in the final quarter. Evans later had an interception returned 37 yards for a TD by Brandon Williams and suddenly, TU was down 49-25 with 11:23 left in the game.
The Golden Hurricane would answer on the next drive with a 1-yard run from James Flanders less than five minutes later.
East Carolina moved the ball fast, wasting no time scoring first. Shane Carden hit Bryce Williams for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 11:23 to go in the opening quarter.
Tulsa bounced back with a lead that lasted for six minutes. DeAngelo Brewer scored from five yards, with a long reception to Keevan Lucas setting up the TD, tying the score 7-7 with under 10 minutes left in the session.
The Hurricane defense forced the Pirates to a 3-and-out, then blocked a punt in the end zone with Matt Hickman recovering for the TD, putting TU up 14-7.
It wouldn’t be long the Pirates would tie it before the quarter ended and went ahead 21-14 before halftime with Carden hitting Justin Hardy from four yards with 14 seconds left.
Tulsa moved the ball on its first drive of the second half, but could only muster a 35-yard field goal from Carl Salazar and cut the deficit to 21-17.