Tulsa, Navy look to move on from emotional games last week
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Tulsa and Navy are trying very hard not face another opponent in their game Saturday: An emotional hangover.
Tulsa blew a 30-9, fourth-quarter lead before losing in triple overtime to SMU. The Midshipmen are coming off a 34-25 win over Air Force in which they squandered a late 21-9 lead, falling behind 25-21 with 3:15 remaining before scoring the winning touchdown with 23 seconds left.
Both coaches told their teams they need to put the previous outings behind them and focus on Saturday’s game.
For Tulsa (2-3, 0-1 American Athletic), the way they lost was difficult to stomach, but Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery was pleased with the overall performance.
“I was really proud of our football team, I thought they played extremely hard, playing a very explosive and hot football team,” Montgomery said. “I thought we played exceptionally well for three quarters, and then we just got to finish right there. One play here or there and obviously it’s a different ball game, but that’s the way our conference is.”
The emphasis for Navy (3-1, 1-1), according to coach Ken Niumatalolo, is to not be too happy with the win.
“We better move on or it’s going to be a very disappointing week,” Niumatalolo said. ”(Tulsa) is a good football team, they’ve had one of the toughest schedules in the country. We better get ready to go, or this is going to be a disappointing trip.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Navy has lost 14 straight games outside of Annapolis, a stretch that dates to their last trip to Tulsa, a 31-21 victory on Sept. 30, 2017. Niumatalolo doesn’t view the Midshipmen as trying to get a monkey off their backs, just attempting to capitalize on their next opportunity.
“It has nothing to do with a road win or monkey, we just got to win our next game” he said. “I never look at those things. It’s the next game, we got to find a way to win it.”
Despite numerous plays that might have clinched a victory over SMU last week, Montgomery didn’t want to play the “what if” game about several key moments that didn’t go their way— including the four 4th downs that SMU converted in the fourth quarter.
“Hindsight 20/20, there’s some different calls in there in all three phases,” he said. “At the time, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. But obviously, as you look back on it, you’re going to be critical of yourself.”
TOP GROUND GAME
After gaining 214 yards (and four touchdowns) on 50 rushes against Air Force, Navy leads the nation in rushing with an average of 312 yards per game, led by quarterback Malcolm Perry’s 386 yards and nine touchdowns on 82 carries. Fullback Nelson Smith has 249 yards and five TDs on 56 rushes.
Tulsa’s Jacob Rainey missed two field goals last week — a 44-yard attempt midway through the third quarter that would have given the Golden Hurricane a 33-9 advantage, and then a 43-yarder in the second overtime that would have won the game. Tulsa also had a 42-yard attempt in the third OT by their usual kickoff man, Zack Long, and he also missed it. Tulsa is 4-for-8 on field goal attempts this season.
Navy struggled with turnovers in the Air Force game, fumbling the ball five times and losing it on three occasions, including twice after botched exchanges between Perry and center Ford Higgins. That was an unacceptable development for Niumatalolo.
“Those are things that we always stress, trying to be really good at turnover margin,” he said. “That’s something we’ve been working on through camp, it’s something we got to improve on. We can’t have that happen.”
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