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Tulsa edges South Florida 48-42 in Friday night offensive clinic

Seniors Deneric Prince and Keylon Stokes deliver on their night of recognition to push the Golden Hurricane past the Bulls.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Tulsa Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

There were no conference title race implications or bowl eligibility scenarios. Friday night’s nationally televised showdown was between a 1-9 South Florida squad and a 3-7 Tulsa team hosting senior night.

Yet, the mid-November delivered in entertainment value with spectacular offensive performances across the board. There were 90 points, 11 touchdowns, 1,072 yards of total offense, and a myriad of explosive plays throughout the contest. In the end, Tulsa’s offense emerged one step ahead of South Florida in a 48-42 thriller on the plains.

Senior night is always an emotional game for players hoping to deliver one final memorable performance in the venue they called home for years. Not only did Tulsa’s seniors capture the victory at Chapman Stadium on Friday — some of the team’s longtime standouts enjoyed phenomenal finishes to their time with the program. Senior running back Deneric Prince rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns while senior wide receiver Keylon Stokes accumulated 145 receiving yards and a touchdown on six touches.

Another program veteran, Kendarin Ray, racked up a team-high 11 tackles in his senior sendoff, while senior defensive end Anthony Goodlow stepped up in crunch time to make the deciding pass breakup on South Florida’s potential game-winning drive.

Despite the seniors taking center stage, a freshman quarterback duel was also one of the prevailing storylines Friday night. South Florida started third-stringer Byrum Brown, and the Rolesville, NC native looked nothing like a quarterback making his first collegiate start. Although this was his first action of the 2022 season, Brown looked like an established star and completed each of his first 21 passes, totaling 240 yards and three touchdowns on the night. His first incompletion didn’t transpire until the 2:57 mark in the fourth quarter, and he added 76 rushing yards and a touchdown with evident mastery of the zone read.

For Tulsa, redshirt freshman Braylon Braxton more than doubled his career-high in the passing department. He maintained an efficient 74 percent completion clip while totaling 302 yards and a touchdown through the air — all without a turnover. Braxton also punched in a pair of short rushing touchdowns in the Golden Hurricane victory.

Although Tulsa captured the victory, South Florida quickly established a double-digit lead in the early going. The Bulls claimed a 10-0 lead before a 76-yard dash by Prince helped Tulsa find its offensive footing. After Braxton’s subsequent touchdown, South Florida’s offense reached scoring territory once again and capped off a drive with a Spencer Shrader field goal. But the failure to score seven points left the door ajar for the Golden Hurricane, and they never looked back.

Once a Steven Anderson touchdown rush handed Tulsa a 14-13 advantage, that would be the final lead change of the contest. Tulsa took command on a 31-yard jet sweep to Stokes, which officially counted as a receiving touchdown in the record books. That was the first of three Tulsa scoring drives in the final six minutes of the first half, and when the halftime whistle blew, Philip Montgomery’s team was up 31-20.

There was a brief South Florida comeback in the middle of the third quarter which sliced the deficit to 38-35, but the Bulls couldn’t generate enough stops to regain the lead. The Bulls inched within one score once again in the final three minutes when Brian Battie sprinted into the end zone on a 21-yard rush — increasing his yardage to 169 on the game. South Florida’s defense responded by forcing its first three-and-out, allowing the offense to take control down six with 1:17 remaining.

However, a rare streak of three incompletions by Brown thwarted the Bulls an opportunity at their first FBS victory this year and their second FBS victory since the start of the 2020 season. South Florida fell to 1-10 overall and 0-7 in conference play after losing its second consecutive game under interim head coach Daniel Da Prato. Only one matchup looms on the Bulls’ remaining 2022 schedule — the final edition of the War on I-4 rivalry against UCF next Saturday.

Tulsa improved to 4-7 overall and 2-5 against AAC competition, despite bowl eligibility being out of the question. The Golden Hurricane, in the midst of their first losing season since 2019, will close their 2022 campaign with a road trip to Houston on Saturday, Nov. 26.