Bobby Lewis, NewsOn6.com
Tulsa went into Houston and picked up its fifth straight win over Rice and snapped the Owls' 5-game home winning streak in the process. The defense was much improved and Tulsa continued to find new and creative ways to get the ball in the end zone.
The Golden Hurricane is now 3-0 in conference play for the third time since joining the league in 2005. The last time Tulsa got out to this kind of start in league play was 2008.
They didn't score in the third quarter. Odd, I know, but Tulsa has played nine quarters this season where TU put up three points or less on the scoreboard. It didn't cost the Golden Hurricane in Houston on Saturday because of the way the team came out of the gate.
Tulsa scored 17 first quarter points and led 24-10 at halftime. G.J. Kinne was masterful in his return to his home state. He passed for over 300 yards for the third straight game. Willie Carter set a career-high in receiving yards with 160. He scored on a 64-yard hookup with Kinne and made great grabs over the middle.
Trey Watts cracked the end zone for the first time in a month and ran hard. He scored twice for the first time in his career.
The team came into the league dead last in turnovers. TU had just one giveaway against Rice, but it was costly. Kinne fumbled at the goal line while trying to stretch his way in for a touchdown that probably would have put the game out of reach in the first half.
Tulsa racked up 473 yards of total offense. It's the third time the team has gone over 450 yards of total offense this season (482 vs. OSU, 559 vs. UAB).
Tulsa came into the game having forced five turnovers in the past two weeks. They forced three in the first quarter against Rice and four total for the game. Curnelius Arnick intercepted a pass on the first offensive play of the game for the Owls. Seven different players have picked off a pass this year for TU. The nine total interceptions are tied for third in the conference behind Houston (11) and Southern Miss (10).
Tulsa forced Rice to switch quarterbacks midway through the first quarter. They held the Owls to 353 yards. Rice scored on a 40-yard touchdown just before halftime on a blown coverage by cornerback Milton Howell. The receiver got behind him and made it to the end zone before help arrived. Other than that play, Tulsa was pretty solid on defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Kevin Fitzpatrick missed a 35 yard field goal, but nailed a career-long 52 yarder as well. Rice was No. 1 in the conference in kickoff return yards allowed. Tulsa was better than the Owls' average yards allowed thanks to a few nice returns by Freeman Kelley. Cole Way punted well, too.
Tulsa beat Rice for the fifth straight time because they played a complete game. All phases were sharp. The third quarter was a bit of a head-scratcher, but overall Tulsa was good. Now, they have to deal with an upset SMU team, who just lost its first league game of the year against Southern Miss on Saturday. SMU is the last team to beat Tulsa in league play, and was the reason why the Golden Hurricane went to the Hawaii Bowl last year instead of the Liberty Bowl.