Dane Evans’ transformation is complete.
When he arrived at the University of Tulsa from Sanger, Texas, he had few scholarship offers. He did have an offer to become a preferred walk on at Oklahoma State. Mike Gundy wanted him, but only at no cost to OSU. Evans chose a TU scholarship instead.
After redshirting his first season at Tulsa, Evans was thrown into the fire in 2013 when former Nebraska transfer Cody Green was injured. Evans started five games and played in eight, but he completed just 43 percent of his passes.
TU observers wondered if he was a Division I quarterback.
On Monday, Evans proved he’s a lot more than that.
Evans capped a magnificent college career by throwing five touchdown passes and bringing home Most Valuable Player honors in the Golden Hurricane’s 55-10 victory over Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl. He completed 28-of-38 passes for 304 yards and suffered zero turnovers.
Evans finished his career ranked No. 1 in TU history in pass completions (904), attempts (1,567), yards (11,680) and touchdowns (84). He’s the only player in school history to surpass 3,000 passing yards three times, and Monday was his school-record 16th 300-yard game.
And this season Evans helped Tulsa to another almost inconceivable NCAA record: TU is the first college football team with a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers (Keevan Lucas and Josh Atkinson) and two 1,000-yard rushers (James Flanders and D’Angelo Brewer).
“It’s the first time in NCAA history that it’s happened, and that’s pretty cool,” Evans said after the Miami Beach Bowl.
In 2007, TU became the first team to achieve a similar milestone: a 5,000-yard passer, three 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher.
Paul Smith played quarterback at TU from 2003-07 and authored most of Tulsa’s career passing records and offensive wonders during that ’07 season. The last two big ones Smith held fell on Monday when Evans threw his fifth touchdown of the day, the 84th of his career, surpassing Smith’s mark of 83.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go into a game with the hope that I’ll get 300 yards and five touchdowns,” Evans said. “I just want to win, and that’s what was working. I’m just the point guard of the team, just trying to get the ball to my playmakers.”
Evans also became TU’s all-time leader in career offense with 11,752 yards, passing Smith’s old mark of 11,602.
Evans’ quarterback coach his freshman season was head coach Bill Blankenship. His sophomore year, he got the dedicated position coaching of Josh Blankenship. Then last year, Montgomery took over, aided first by Sterlin Gilbert and now Beau Trahan.
Evans’ team’s progression has been as remarkable his own. His freshman year, TU was 3-9. As a sophomore, the Golden Hurricane fell to 2-10. Then Philip Montgomery arrived from Baylor and engineered a 6-7 turnaround a return to the postseason.
“We’ve had a really good season, and this is a really good football team,” Montgomery said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten the respect across the country that we deserve. These guys understand that. And it ain’t about what everybody else thinks. It’s about what we think, in the locker room and how we carry ourselves on the field.”
“I definitely feel like we are a much better team than what we got credit for this season but those are things out of our control,” Lucas said. “We just wanted to come every week and every week is a new week. I just feel like we were really blessed to get this 10th win and it’ll carry over for the young guys next.”
Evans wasn’t the only one setting records on Monday. Lucas caught his 32nd career touchdown pass, tying the mark held by Steve Largent, who’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Howard Twilley, who’s in the College Football Hall of Fame and was a key member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ undefeated season. Lucas, a senior who has applied for a medical hardship season and may yet return next year, ranks third on the career receiving yardage list with 3,250, and his 15th touchdowns this season ranks second in TU history.
Flanders extended his single-season school record rushing total to 1,629 yards (with 18 touchdowns, second in school history), while Brewer, a junior, was right behind at 1,435 yards.
Atkinson caught a career-high 13 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown against Central Michigan and finishes his career seventh in school history with 2,654 receiving yards.
The Miami Beach Bowl massacre was the crown jewel of coach Montgomery’s Tulsa tenure so far. The Golden Hurricane finished the season 10-3 and was two late-game controversial officiating calls (at Houston and at Navy) from a possible 12-1 or 13-1 finish. TU’s only undisputed defeat was 48-3 at playoff-bound Ohio State.
“To imagine that we had won five games combined before Coach Monty got here the last couple seasons,” Evans said, “and now we have guys going into NCAA history, that just shows you what that man means to us.”
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.