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AROUND THE NATION | LIBERTY BOWL

Tulsa Shows Bulldog Qualities

January 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tulsa made a remarkable comeback this season. Fittingly, the Golden Hurricane used a timely rally to win its biggest game of the year.

Paul Smith ran four yards for the winning touchdown with 2:55 to play, and Tulsa had two key interceptions in its 31-24 victory over Fresno State on Saturday in the Liberty Bowl.

"Today was really a microcosm of our season," Coach Steve Kragthorpe said.

Smith, the game's MVP, was 18 for 27 for 234 yards with a 54-yard touchdown pass to Ashlan Davis. But he made his biggest play on the ground, scrambling around three defenders and into the end zone to secure Tulsa's first bowl victory in 14 years.

"I just decided I didn't want to force [a pass] in there," Smith said.

The Golden Hurricane forced a pair of turnovers from Bulldog quarterback Paul Pinegar in clinching its seventh win in eight games to close the season.

First, defensive back Anthony Germany set up Tulsa's decisive drive by picking off Pinegar's pass with just under seven minutes remaining.

Fresno State then had one final chance. Pinegar drove the Bulldogs into Tulsa territory before his pass toward the sideline was picked off by linebacker Nelson Coleman at the 30.

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

The victory capped a tremendous turnaround under Kragthorpe, who before the 2003 season took over a Tulsa program that was coming off 11 straight losing seasons and has led it to two bowl games in three years.

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