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2008-2009
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Tulsa Tulsa (11-3) 45
Ball State Ball State (12-2) 13
 

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Tulsa Blows Past Ball State

by Dave Congrove
January 6, 2009

Maybe the weather was an omen. High winds and tornado watches permeated the Mobile, Alabama area and the second half of the GMCA Bowl included a deluge or rain. On the field, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane blew away the Ball State Cardinals 45-13 for the first 11-win season (11-3) in school history.

Tulsa improved its bowl record to 7-9, while Ball State remained winless (0-5) in major college bowl games. The Cardinals (12-2) also finished with their highest single-season win total.

Tulsa's lead was just 17-10 with 6:36 to go until halftime, even though Ball State QB Nate Davis fumbled on his teams' first two possessions and added an interception in the 2nd quarter. Amazingly, the Golden Hurricane only scored 7 points off of those turnovers. But Tulsa started to pull away when Tarrion Adams galloped 56 yards to make it 24-10. Ball State was only able to answer with a 22-yard field goal after reaching the Golden Hurricane's 4-yard line, and trailed 24-13 at the break.

The second half was all wet, and all Tulsa.

A 15-yard touchdown pass from David Johnson to Slick Shelley, the team' second-leading receiver for the season, gave Tulsa a 31-13 lead. Brennan Marion, the team's leading receiver with 1,112 yards and 8 TD's in the regular season, had to watch from the sideline after suffering a torn ACL in the CUSA title game loss to East Carolina.

With only 1:31 gone in the 4th quarter, Adams scored on an 11-yard run for an insurmountable 38-13 lead. The final points came on Johnson's 13-yard TD pass to Jacob Frank with 10:25 left in the contest.

Ball State's Davis was a miserable 9-for-29 for 143 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 INT's and a fumble. He was 0-for-10 in the second half, reportedly playing with an injured throwing hand.

The Cardinals generated just 225 yards of offense for the entire game as Ball State's second half consisted of five 3-and-outs, and a single first down which came via penalty.

Meanwhile, Tulsa rolled up 632 yards of which 439 was amassed on the ground. Tulsa's Johnson was 15-of-25 for 193 yards with 3 TD's and 0 INT's. He also rushed for 54 yards on 12 carries.

Tulsa WR Demaris Johnson compiled 274 all-purpose yards. He scored on Tulsa's first possession on a 30-yard pass from David Johnson and wound up with 135 yards receiving. He added 76 yards rushing on just 3 carries, and 63 yards on three kick returns.

RB Adams became Tulsa's career leading rusher with a 207-yard, 2-TD performance on only 19 carries. His 3,651 yards passes the 3,536-yard mark set by Michael Gunter from 1980-83.

This was the second straight GMAC Bowl demolition by Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane blasted Bowling Green 63-7 in last year's game for a NCAA record 56-point bowl victory margin.

Ball State can't help but feel they came up short on a season that had the potential for even greater achievement.

The Cardinals were 12-0 before an upset loss to Buffalo in a MAC Championship game that saw their star QB Davis become inexplicably prone to turnovers, and replay officials appear inept. Davis was involved in four fumbles and an INT in that game, but two of the miscues came after officials blew reviews. Then, Brady Hoke surprised and irritated the Cardinal faithful when he abruptly resigned as head coach to take the job at San Diego State. And now the GMAC Bowl loss leaves the Cardinals still searching for their first bowl win.

During the 12 consecutive wins, Ball State turned the ball over a total of 10 times. The Cardinals had 8 turnovers in the last two games. They will head into 2009 on a two-game losing streak, and with the bad memory of an inauspicious start to the Stan Parrish era. The offensive coordinator under Hoke, Parrish was announced as the head coach of the Cardinals on December 18.

The last seven GMAC Bowls gave been routs that were decided by 21 points or more. MAC teams won the first five times they were invited, but have lost the last three by an average of 36 points.