When the University of Tulsa’s late-game magic appeared to run out Thursday night at H.A. Chapman Stadium, third-string quarterback Davis Brin had a final chance to save the day.
Brin launched a Hail Mary toward the end zone and JuanCarlos Santana leaped to catch it as time expired, knotting the score and setting up a dramatic 30-24 double-overtime victory against Tulane that kept the 25th-ranked Hurricane undefeated in American Athletic Conference play.
“I knew it was going to be the last play of the game,” Brin said. “I knew we had guys going into the end zone … and saw JC and all those guys down there and threw it up and (he) came down with it.
“It was insane. I couldn’t really process it. I kind of froze, stood there, like, ‘We just scored a touchdown. Let’s go win this game.’”
In true Tulsa fashion, the win — a fifth in a row and a fourth comeback by double digits this season — seemed improbable every step of the way. On the last play, standout linebacker Zaven Collins returned an interception 96 yards for the winning score and was mobbed by his teammates in the end zone.
“I’m just so proud of our young men,” coach Philip Montgomery said. “Words can’t really explain it, but the one thing that I can explain is that is just a special group of guys down there (in the locker room). It took every one of them and it took all three phases.”
The Hurricane (5-1, 5-0) trailed 14-0 before Brin entered the game, the result of injuries to starting quarterback Zach Smith (ribs) in the second quarter and backup Seth Boomer (left knee) in the third quarter. After the previous two combined for 77 yards, Brin threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns.
“Tonight didn’t surprise I don’t think anybody on our football team and I know it didn’t surprise Davis,” Montgomery said. “He prepared himself. He was ready. He stepped in there, made some big throws. Heck, (he) made a great run.”
Brin, a third-year sophomore who entered with one career completion, was on point from his first series late in the third quarter, a possession that ended with a controversial call on a fumble from Malik Rodgers. On the next drive, Brin converted crucial third downs and dashed through the secondary for an 18-yard touchdown to slice the deficit in half.
With Smith on the sideline signaling plays for the offense, Brin needed to produce another touchdown drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He connected with Josh Johnson on fourth down and Johnson somehow escaped a tackler for the first down.
Brin went back to Johnson for the tying touchdown, also on fourth down, and the socially distanced crowd was able to briefly breathe a sigh of relief. But on the ensuing kickoff, returner Amare Jones went 71 yards to put the Green Wave in field goal range with three minutes left.
A Tulane touchdown followed, and time was not on Tulsa’s side. The Hurricane offense took the field with 98 seconds left and only one timeout.
That’s when Brin kept gunning, completing five consecutive passes to give the home team a prayer. Tulane (5-5, 2-5) took a timeout, setting up the last play of regulation with six seconds left.
To open the first overtime, Brin avoided a sack and nearly threw an interception, but the drive resulted in a clutch 27-yard field goal from Zack Long. After a pair of incompletions, Tulane answered with a 39-yard field goal.
In the first half, the teams combined for three missed field goals and no points. Boomer produced the most promising drive, but it resulted in an interception at the 1-yard line in the final moments of the half.
Unlike previous weeks, Tulsa got out of the first quarter with no damage but also no rhythm on offense. Of the 58 first-quarter yards, more than half came on a Corey Taylor II run.
After that play, Smith was sacked and the Hurricane missed a long field goal. That sack resulted in the injury for Smith, who did not return.
Regarding the injuries that included receiver Keylon Stokes, who was hurt in the third quarter, Montgomery said: “We’ll get a chance to kind of evaluate them tomorrow, let the doctors look at them. I can tell you Seth’s is pretty significant, I believe. But as far as everybody else, we’ll have to wait and see until later on.”
— By Kelly Hines, Tulsa World
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