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Tulsa tames Bulldogs in Liberty Bowl

FINAL ROUNDUP OF C-USA BOWLS

New Orleans Bowl [Preview]
Tuesday, December 20
Southern Miss 31, Arkansas State 19
Cajun Stadium, Lafayette, LA
Payout Per Team: $750,000
Time: 8 PM; TV: ESPN

GMAC Bowl [Preview]
Wednesday, December 21
Toledo 45, Texas-El Paso 13
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
Payout Per Team: $750,000
Time: 8 PM; TV: ESPN

Fort Worth Bowl [Preview]
Friday, December 23
Kansas 42, Houston 13
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
Payout Per Team: $750,000
Time: 8 PM; TV: ESPN

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl [Preview]
Saturday, December 24
Nevada 49, Central Florida 48 (OT)
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
Payout Per Team: $750,000
Time: 8:30 PM; TV: ESPN

Motor City Bowl [Preview]
Monday, December 26
Memphis 38, Akron 31
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Payout Per Team: $750,000
Time: 4 PM; TV: ESPN

AutoZone Liberty Bowl [Preview]
Saturday, December 31
Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24
Liberty Bowl Stadium, Memphis, TN
Payout Per Team: $1,500,000
Time: 1 PM; TV: ESPN

View schedule and final results of all bowl games involving C-USA teams...

 

View Liberty Bowl Box Score...

By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer

MEMPHIS — Paul Smith ran 4 yards for the winning touchdown with 2:55 remaining, and Tulsa's defense had two key fourth-quarter interceptions in a 31-24 victory over Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl on Saturday.

The triumph, before 54,894 fans, capped off Conference USA's postseason record at 3 wins and 3 losses. Southern Mississippi defeated Arkansas State 31-19 in the New Orleans Bowl; Texas-El Paso was routed by Toledo 45-13 in the GMAC Bowl; Houston was hammered by Kansas 42-13 in the Fort Worth Bowl; Central Florida lost in overtime to Nevada 49-48 in the Hawaii Bowl; and Memphis beat Akron 38-31 in the Motor City Bowl.

Smith, the game's MVP, finished 18-of-27 passing for 234 yards with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Ashlan Davis, but made his biggest play oxn the ground when he scrambled around three Fresno State defenders and into the end zone to secure Tulsa's first bowl victory since 1991.

Defensive back Anthony Germany set up that play by picking off Paul Pinegar's pass with just under 7 minutes remaining. Smith then led Tulsa on the decisive eight-play, 52-yard drive.

Fresno State had one final chance to force overtime and Pinegar drove the Bulldogs to the Tulsa 42 before his pass toward the sideline was picked off by linebacker Nelson Coleman.

The Golden Hurricane (9-4) then ran out the clock and celebrated their first bowl victory since they beat San Diego State in the Freedom Bowl in 1991.

The victory capped a remarkable turnaround under new coach Steve Kragthorpe, who took over a Tulsa program in 2003 that was coming off 11 straight losing seasons and led it to two bowls in three years.

The Golden Hurricane overcame low expectations this season to claim an unlikely Conference USA championship in their first year in the league, then beat a Fresno State team that gave top-ranked Southern California fits and once was ranked 16th in the nation before sliding into a late-season slump.

Tulsa had to come from behind to beat its former WAC rival, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Fresno State took a 24-17 lead on Pinegar's 21-yard touchdown pass to Joe Fernandez on the second play of the quarter.

The Golden Hurricane tied it at 24 two possessions later when Smith found Davis streaking behind the secondary for a 54-yard TD pass.

Tarrion Adams led Tulsa with 102 yards rushing, but most of that came on a 63-yard touchdown burst in the second quarter. That scoring run gave Tulsa its first lead at 14-7 and came about 4 minutes after teammate Uril Parrish tied it by running 22 yards for the Golden Hurricane's first touchdown.

Pinegar finished 19-of-30 passing for 213 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while Wendell Mathis had 117 yards rushing and his WAC-best 15th rushing touchdown of the season for Fresno State (8-5), which closed a once-promising year with four straight losses.

Pinegar also was denied in his attempt to become the first quarterback to go 4-0 as a starter in bowl games.

The teams traded field goals in the second and third quarters, with Brad DeVault kicking a 41-yarder on the final play of the first half to give Tulsa a 17-14 halftime lead. Fresno State tied it at 17 on Kyle Zimmerman's 27-yard field goal early in the third.

Fresno State backup Bryson Sumlin had a 25-yard TD run late in the first half.

The game is sponsored by AutoZone.

LIBERTY BOWL BOX SCORE

Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24

Fresno State   7  7  3   7 — 24
Tulsa          0 17  0  14 — 31

First Quarter:
Fre — Mathis 6 run (Zimmerman kick), 1:00.

Second Quarter:
Tul — Parrish 22 run (DeVault kick), 12:33.
Tul — T. Adams 63 run (DeVault kick), 8:15.
Fre — Sumlin 25 run (Zimmerman kick), 1:13.
Tul — FG DeVault 41, :00.

Third Quarter:
Fre — FG Zimmerman 27, 11:51.

Fourth Quarter:
Fre — Fernandez 21 pass from Pinegar (Zimmerman kick), 14:12.
Tul — A. Davis 54 pass from P.Smith (DeVault kick), 10:35.
Tul — P. Smith 4 run (DeVault kick), :55.

Attendance: 54,894.

TEAM STATS           Fresno     Tulsa
First downs              22        20
Rushes-yards         47-208    28-196
Passing                 213       234
Comp-Att-Int        19-30-2   18-27-0
Return Yards             -6         1
Punts-Avg.           3-34.3    4-40.3
Fumbles-Lost            1-0       1-1
Penalties-Yards        5-35      2-10
Time of Possession    38:20     21:40

INDIVIDUAL STATS

Rushing:
Fresno State — Mathis 31-117, Sumlin 11-57, Pinegar 3-27, Rivera 2-7; Tulsa — T. Adams 11-102, Parrish 9-51, P. Smith 7-45, Team 1-(minus 2).

Passing:
Fresno State — Pinegar 19-30-2-213; Tulsa — P.Smith 18-27-0-234.

Receiving:
Fresno State — Fairman 6-73, Williams 3-47, Fernandez 2-25, Jennings 2-20, Pascoe 2-10, Rivera 1-19, Mathis 1-13, Tapia 1-6, Jamison 1-0; Tulsa — A. Davis 8-128, Mills 4-52, Parrish 3-19, T. Adams 2-29, Keopple 1-6.

02/23/07 10:42 AM

©2005 The Associated Press. All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 

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