LITTLE ROCK — Bare-bones stories of Tulsa’s victories and a snapshot of the stars of those games says a great deal about Arkansas’ opponent.
Generally, the Razorbacks’ non-conference opponents are ignored until game week and knowledge of Tulsa was limited to the 7-1 record. Perusing the scores, victories by seven, seven, four, and one got my attention. Curious about details, I looked up 45-38 vs. Marshall, 49-42 vs. UAB, 28-24 vs. Rice and 27-26 vs. Fresno State.
Home or road, throwing or running, coming from behind or protecting a lead, the only constant was the W.
Conference USA or the SEC, 5-0 in league play going into November is impressive. The record says Tulsa finds a way, a coveted trait and a warning that Arkansas will have a difficult time today.
Picking the Razorbacks to win would be easier if they had won a close game. Twice in Little Rock, they had a chance and failed. The only other time the margin was less than 10 was the nine-point loss to Rutgers. Scoff at the notion that winning is contagious, but Notre Dame is in the BCS title picture because of four victories by a total of 20 points.
The variety of players who have produced for Tulsa speaks to the team concept. So does a capsule of top performers that ESPN includes with a brief rehash of a particular game. Fresno provided the top rusher, passer, and receiver from the Tulsa game. Ditto for UAB. Both lost.
Against Fresno, Tulsa quarterback Cody Green threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns and a third that led to a TD. At one point, Fresno led by 13. Tulsa went ahead on a tailback pass in the third quarter. On its last six possessions, Fresno did not get past its 33-yard line and punted five times.
Against UAB, Green threw for two TDs, ran for one and Tulsa led by 14 after three quarters. UAB tied it at 42, scoring twice in less than two minutes. The defense responded with an interception to set up the winning touchdown and a fumble recovery on Tulsa’s side of the field.
Against Rice, Tulsa trailed 24-21 in the fourth quarter. Alex Singleton, who had 63 yards on 18 carries, scored the game winner with 91 seconds to play. Ja’Terian Douglas had 17 attempts for 169 yards and a touchdown.
Get the idea that Tulsa finds a way? There’s more. Green epitomizes getting it done, no matter the stats.
Against Fresno, he was only 13-of-37. Two weeks later against Marshall he threw only 17 and completed nine, but his only touchdown pass of the game put Tulsa ahead to stay. After that, Lowell Rose and Marco Nelson broke up fourth-down passes inside the Tulsa 20.
Conversely, Arkansas’ defense could not come up with a drive-stopping play against Ole Miss at the end of either half. Those failures documented, there is an argument to be made that the defense played well enough for Arkansas to win and that the offense fell short in the final 30 minutes.
Ole Miss’ second-half point production came on three field goals, including one on the fourth play after a 32-yard return of an intercepted pass, and one of the first-half touchdowns was a 22-yard drive after a blocked punt.
Arkansas made 281 yards in the first half, 183 in the second.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson will be the first to say he made some ill-advised throws and that he missed some open receivers. Considering the poor protection and the shortage of proven receivers, Wilson is not solely to blame but his stats are integral to Arkansas’ success. He has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in each of Arkansas’ victories and less than 56 percent in four losses.
SEC 34, Conference USA 27.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is email@example.com.