The prohibitive American Athletic Conference favorite now has a loss. No. 11 UCF fell 34-26 at home to Tulsa on Saturday night after jumping out to a 23-5 lead in the first half.
Tulsa’s go-ahead score came when Keylon Stokes caught a 13-yard TD pass from Zach Smith with 12:56 left to go. After that, UCF’s offense ran a total of 11 plays and punted twice before Tulsa was able to run out the clock.
After Tulsa kicked a field goal to extend the lead to eight with 1:30 to go, UCF got into Tulsa territory but a potential game-tying drive was derailed by penalties and a bad snap and a Hail Mary attempt into the end zone fell incomplete.
The win is the biggest in Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery’s five-plus year tenure with the school and the second straight win for the team over UCF. Tulsa beat the Knights 34-31 at home in 2019 to give UCF its third loss of the season.
Prior to Saturday, UCF had won 21 straight games at home. The last home loss for the Knights came against, you guessed it, Tulsa. That was UCF’s final home game in the 2016 season during a 6-7 campaign in Scott Frost’s first year with the school.
Smith was 17-of-29 passing for 273 yards and three touchdowns and an interception. Tulsa running backs had over 180 rushing yards as the Golden Hurricane ran the ball a total of 43 times against UCF’s defense.
UCF was up 18 in the second quarter
The game looked like it was going to be a formality for UCF after the Knights went up 23-5 with 1:39 to go in the second quarter.
But Tulsa scored 46 seconds later to cut the lead to 11 before halftime and opened the second half with a TD just 11 seconds into the third quarter to make UCF’s lead just four.
UCF was able to manage just one field goal in the second half among a turnover on downs and four punts before the game-ending drive.
The Knights really need to stop getting penalized too. UCF had 18 penalties against Tulsa and had 19 penalties in their previous game against East Carolina. That’s 37 penalties in the last two games.
Who’s the AAC favorite now?
Saturday was a tumultuous day in the AAC. While Cincinnati won against South Florida, Memphis lost to SMU.
The Bearcats’ win and the losses by the Tigers and Knights put Cincinnati and SMU as the early favorites in the conference. And we should probably not rule out Tulsa either. The Golden Hurricane are 1-1 but that loss was a hard-fought one at an Oklahoma State team that’s the only undefeated team left in the Big 12.
UCF isn’t out of it by any means either. Heck, this is a conference that still has two teams in Temple and Houston that haven’t played games yet. The Knights are the only AAC team to play two conference games and are 1-1. Winning out could still get UCF into a New Year’s Six bowl game. The Knights just don’t have any margin of error the rest of the way.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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