COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery isn’t one to be conservative offensively.
He said Saturday after TU’s 48-3 loss at Ohio State that he considered trying to wind down the clock a bit with his team trailing 6-3 and backed up to its 17-yard line with 3:09 until halftime. But he figured to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone, he’d need first downs. And that’s why he opened the gate for quarterback Dane Evans to throw a quick slant over the middle.
It didn’t work out, of course, as Evans’ pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown and a 13-3 Buckeye lead. Two possessions later — still in the first half — Montgomery was calling pass plays again, and again Evans threw a pick six. That one put the Golden Hurricane in a 20-3 halftime hole.
But earlier in the game, Montgomery also got a little greedy on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Instead of a field goal that would have tied it at 3-3, he brought in John Flanders for a hard run up the middle, and the Ohio State defense came away with a momentum-swinging goal-line stand. TU never penetrated the Buckeye 20-yard line again.
Maybe kicking the field goal would have sent a positive message to his team that they would be in the game later on and needed to capture all the points they could. Then again, maybe it would have sent a negative message that he didn’t believe they could overpower OSU for 1 yard.
“I’d do it again right now,” Montgomery said. “I need to go back and look at the tape. But that call didn’t lose the football game for us. We’re right there and we’ve got a chance to plug one in and take the lead. Shoot, it’s hard to turn down that. You’re sitting right there on the 1-yard line, you roll the dice and see what happens.”
It was sort of odd to see Flanders in for D’Angelo Brewer, who ran 15 yards on three carries earlier in that possession. Brewer slashed and bashed his way to 164 yards against San Jose State in last week’s season-opener and had 20 yards on his first six carries Saturday. But once TU got inside the 5-yard line, Flanders carried twice and netted two yards.
Another factor in Flanders’ carrying the ball was that backup quarterback Chad President was out with an undisclosed injury. Multiple sources said President has a serious injury that may keep him out for a prolonged period.
“Yeah, we’re still in the evaluation stage of it,” Montgomery said. “We’ll see where it’s at on Monday and then we’ll have a further release after that.”
President, a 6-3, 222-pound sophomore, completed 1-of-2 passes for 9 yards and carried three times for 33 yards in mop-up duty last week against San Jose State. As a designated short-yardage runner last season, President rushed 17 times for 69 yards and was 0-for-3 passing. He was a four-star recruit from Temple, Texas, who was originally committed to Baylor.
Without President, Tulsa’s backup quarterback is fourth-year junior Ryan Rubley, who has yet to play in a game for TU.
Evans is almost always the team spokesman and was requested for postgame interviews but he was not made available. After six turnovers, it’s understandable to want to shield him. But it also sends a message that it’s OK to be in front of the cameras when things are going well, but not when things don’t go well.
“If he was up here, he’d have said he was pressing a little bit, trying to see too many things instead of just relaxing and playing ball,” Montgomery said. “But don’t put it all on Dane, either. We’ve got to run the football better, we’ve got to catch the football better. We’ve got to do a lot of things better offensively. I thought Dane made some really good reads, made some really good throws. We just didn’t operate offensively like we needed to.”
Montgomery directed a Baylor offense that led the nation twice in total yardage. Last year the Golden Hurricane averaged 507 yards and 37 points per game.
But Saturday, TU was held to 3 points (the program’s lowest total since a 45-0 shutout at Oklahoma in 2009) and gained just 189 yards total offense.
Still, don’t get the idea that he goes into games wanting to put up big numbers.
“You know better than that,” he said. “I don’t ‘Like my numbers.’ I never said, ‘I like my numbers.’ What I like is winning football games. If we won 3-0, I’d be happy. It’s not about that for us. We’ve never been about that.
“But am I disappointed in the way we played offensively? Sure I am. I think we can play much better. I think we can execute much better. We didn’t do that tonight. We’ve got to continue to keep getting better and driving and finding ways to pick up first downs and score points.”
ON THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State plays at Oklahoma next Saturday. While fans can get lost in the luster of an historic matchup between two of college football’s most elite programs, the Sooners have plenty to worry about on the field.
Ohio State, Montgomery said, is “very, very talented, and very, very sound. They don’t make a lot of mistakes. I thought our defense did a good job tonight of getting a couple turnovers. But I thought they are very technique-oriented. They’ve got great athletes on the field with a lot of length to them. They can cover a lot of ground. And they will capitalize on mistakes that you make. And that’s the sign of a good football team.”