TULSA, Okla.--Tulsa senior quarterback Paul Smith threw five touchdown passes to lead the Golden Hurricane to a 56-7 defeat of defending Conference USA champion Houston on Saturday in front of 25,428 fans at Chapman Stadium.
Smith, who completed 15-of-28 attempts for 313 yards, also ran for a touchdown in the rout. He had a hand in Tulsa’s first six touchdowns.
Tulsa (7-3, 5-2 C-USA) is now in the driver’s seat to win the C-USA West Division title. The Golden Hurricane can clinch the West Division crown and earn a berth in the C-USA Championship Game with a win over Rice two weeks from now.
The loss dropped Houston to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in C-USA. Houston would have to defeat Marshall next weekend and Tulsa would have to fall to Rice in order for the Cougars to repeat as West Division champions.
Houston broke up Tulsa’s shutout bid when freshman running back Terrance Ganaway scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:25 left in the game. But it was too little, too late for the Cougars.
Tulsa scored on five of its first seven drives to take a 35-0 halftime lead. Smith did much of the damage, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for another in the first half.
But Smith wasn’t done. On the Golden Hurricane’s first drive of the second half, Smith found Dion Toliver on a 37-yard touchdown pass that upped Tulsa’s lead to 42-0.
Less than four minutes later, junior running back Tarrion Adams scored on a 2-yard run to increase the Golden Hurricane’s lead to 49-0.
Houston shot itself in the foot with penalties and turnovers, finishing the game with 12 penalties for 94 yards and five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles).
The Cougars squandered their only scoring opportunity of the first half when senior kicker T.J. Lawrence’s 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Tulsa senior nose guard Brandon Jones early in the second quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Case Keenum, who got the start, was a non-factor in Saturday’s game, completing 12 of 15 passes for 81 yards and an interception.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Joseph entered the game with less than four minutes to go in the half, but he wasn’t any better than Keenum. He was only 3-of-9 passing for 45 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
The second half did not start out any better for the Cougars – they were called for three penalties on their first drive and forced to punt the ball.
Tulsa took over on the Houston 45-yard line, and scored five plays later on Smith’s long touchdown pass to Toliver.
Tulsa scored its final points on a 10-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Jamad Williams with 11:35 left in the game.