Game 297: UCF @ Tulsa

Tulsa is a better team than their under-.500 record suggests. This game against the back-to-back American Athletic Conference champion UCF Knights would be supporting evidence. UCF not only has dominated the conference the past two years, but also represented all “Group of Five” conferences in the 2018 Peach Bowl and 2019 Fiesta Bowl. Although the Knights already dented two notches in the loss column this season, they still represent the conference elite. A win over UCF would be groundshaking.

Friday nights can be a tough sell for Tulsa football, especially as the local high schools are in the critical parts of their schedules. Golden Hurricane fans have also endured a mound of disappointment with close losses that affect the national perception of their team. As a result, the Tulsa faithful did not represent in their typical supportive numbers.

Furthermore, bowl eligibility officially had evaporated for Tulsa, and while that’s unfortunate, there now was nothing for the team to lose. On the other sideline, UCF needed this victory to keep their AAC title hopes alive.

UCF seized an 11-point halftime advantage, but neither team had captured momentum. Two second-half interceptions thrown by the Knights resulted in Tulsa points, thus propelling the game in their favor. The most dramatic moment occurred after the second UCF turnover late in the game, which set the Golden Hurricane up for the winning field goal with under two minutes left. The defense held the ensuing UCF drive, and the party was on.

Joy manifested itself in the form of players hugging, swaying in unison to the alma mater, directing the fight song, and charging into the stands to celebrate with an ecstatic fan base. The locker room celebration, led by the words of head coach Philip Montgomery, heightened the revelry as he reminded his team of how good they are despite their record. A chorused chant then filled the room of “You got me, I got you” symbolizing an unbreakable team unity. A beat dropped, bottles popped, and the locker room became a dance floor.

This game was Tulsa’s season.As the postgame fireworks cooled to an ember, the oversized hurricane warning flag that gently flowed above a vacated H.A. Chapman Stadium signaled a storm of success that could brew in years to come.

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