Tulsa erased a 14-point halftime deficit and held on to defeat East Carolina 34-30 in an American Athletic Conference contest Friday night at Chapman Stadium. But the other story was some questionable officiating on the game-winning drive for Tulsa.
First, running back TK Wilkerson had the ball stripped free by Jireh Wilson and it was recovered by ECU cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian, giving the Pirates the ball back. But the referees went to the replay system and deemed Wilkerson regained possession of the football by the time his knee hit the ground.
Later on in the drive, the Pirates forced a 4th and 5 for the Golden Hurricane. Zach Smith’s pass to Josh Johnson was behind the receiver, who made a sliding grab at what was ruled on the field a completed catch. Replay showed the ball skidding across the turf, yet The American replay officials confirmed the catch on the field, awarding Tulsa a first down. Wilkerson later scored with 29 seconds remaining in the game.
ECU had a chance in the closing seconds, but Holton Ahlers’ pass into the end zone was batted to the ground. People will resort themselves to those calls for this game as ECU have already contacted the American Conference regarding those calls. However, it was an odd and sloppy Friday Night game with 6 turnovers and 23 penalties but it kept us all on the edge of our seat.
Smith was 19-of-37 passing for 253 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Tulsa, which has won four straight conference games for the first time in program history. Wilkerson had 89 yards rushing and two scores. Keylon Stokes caught six passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, and JuanCarlos Santana added 88 receiving yards and a score.
Ahlers, who missed the last game against Navy because of COVID-19 protocols, completed 38 of 50 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns for East Carolina. Rahjai Harris rushed for 118 yards and Tyler Snead caught 16 passes for 108 yards and a TD.
East Carolina finished with the upper hand in total offense, out-gaining the Golden Hurricane 456-428, but Tulsa’s second-half offensive surge resulted in a 175-126 advantage in rushing yards.
The comeback victory for the Golden Hurricane keep their AAC championship aspirations alive by staying unbeaten in conference play while the Pirates are gutted from a significant program win under Mike Houston.
Up next for the Pirates is the Green Wave of Tulane who travel to Greenville next Saturday, Nov. 7.
As for the Golden Hurricane, they will be traveling up to Annapolis to take on Navy next Saturday, Nov. 7.