TULSA, Okla. — It had been another stirring comeback, one worthy of celebrating, and that's what the Cal State Long Beach 49ers did while Tulsa pondered a seemingly impossible situation with 17 seconds to play Saturday night.
The 49ers led, 35-34. Tulsa had the ball on its seven-yard line and was out of timeouts.
Golden Hurricane quarterback Steve Gage threw a desperation pass which Eric Brown caught with three defenders on him for a 57-yard gain.
First down on the Long Beach 36. Eight seconds left. The celebrating stopped as the 49ers saw their fourth straight victory slipping away.
Gage threw a quick pass to Ronnie Kelley, who gained seven yards and went out of bounds to stop the clock with five seconds left.
Then, as time ran out, Jason Staurovsky kicked a 46-yard field goal to give Tulsa a 37-35 victory which left the 49ers in tears and disbelief.
"It isn't anybody's fault," Long Beach Coach Mike Sheppard told his players in the dressing room. "The fact that they had 37 points is all of our faults."
The game was an offensive show--Tulsa had 526 total yards, Long Beach 419--and one in which the team that had the ball last was likely to win.
As usual, the 49ers started the game misfiring. Quarterback Doug Gaynor threw three interceptions and Tulsa took a 24-7 lead. At halftime it was 24-14.
But Gaynor regained his form and completed 14 of 15 second-half passes, guiding Long Beach on touchdown drives of 68, 59 and 80 yards.
When Martin Sartin scored on a four-yard run with 3:30 to play, Long Beach took its 35-34 lead. It was the fourth touchdown of the game for Sartin, who rushed for 110 yards in 16 carries and caught six passes for 40 yards.
"We played our hearts out," Sartin said. "We wanted to prove we can play with anybody in the country and we proved it tonight."
Tulsa, which snapped a four-game losing streak, had expected the 49ers to be a breather after playing four Southwest Conference teams.
But the Hurricane, playing against a passing team for the first time this year, could not stop Long Beach (3-3) in the second half.
The 49ers, though, could not stop Tulsa's option offense. Gage ran for 105 yards and threw for 219, and running back Gordon Brown gained 122. They finally stopped Tulsa with 1:21 to play and took over on the Tulsa 36. But the 49ers could not run the clock out and punted to the Tulsa seven.
"Long Beach is a good club," Tulsa Coach Don Morton said. "They perform well. It was a tough way to lose."
Sheppard said there was "no question" in his mind that the 49ers had the game won.
And then in 17 startling seconds a victory was wiped out.