No matter how improbable, No. 24 Tulsa seems capable of penning a weekly, winning script.
The Golden Hurricane (5-1, 5-0 American), who will face the Houston Cougars (3-3, 3-2 American) on Saturday at TDECU Stadium, posted their fourth comeback victory of the season last week, rallying for a wild30-24 double-overtime victory over Tulane that featured third-string quarterback Davis Brin engineering a 30-point outburst over the fourth quarter and two overtimes and standout linebacker Zaven Collins returning an interception 96 yards to seal the win.
Tulsa rallied from a 21-point deficit to stun SMU the previous week. Pulling off another miraculous comeback after starting quarterback Zach Smith and his backup Seth Boomer were sidelined due to injury represented something beyond an occasional lucky bounce.
"We're a little bit older team right now and we've got some guys that have really stepped up and are making plays," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. "That's really the biggest difference. Whether that's a first-down play, a fourth-down play, a play down in the red zone -- it's just guys continuing to make those efforts and then come up on the right side of it.
"I just think there's a different level of confidence with this team and a desire to go ahead and get that done, and that's in all three phases: defensively, offensively and special teams. I think some of it is maturity, some of it is confidence and just guys putting themselves in a position to go make those plays and making it happen."
Smith is day to day as Tulsa prepares to face the Cougars. Still, what is certain is the Hurricane have been buoyed by past success and are armed with the knowledge that superior performances are a viable goal.
"We've still got a lot of good football left in us," Montgomery said. "I don't think we've played our best football yet, but we're finding ways to win and that's the most important thing at this stage."
COVID-19 protocols prevented the Cougars from playing SMU as scheduled last weekend, resulting in the fourth postponement of the season for Houston, which lost non-conference games against Rice, Baylor and North Texas in September to pandemic-related complications.
The Cougars had their contest against SMU rescheduled for Dec. 5.
"We're used to it. It ain't nothing new," Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We're not going through anything that nobody else isn't going through as well. At this point, it's second nature. It's the third time that we've paused in the sixth game. We're doing fine.
"I think they look at what's going on around the country and say, 'Well, we're not alone when it comes to this.' There were 20 games (postponed or canceled) last week and I think 15 games the previous week."
The Cougars experienced roster attrition the previous week against USF but managed those losses ably. But when the number of available players diminished last week in advance of the SMU game, particularly at linebacker, Houston was left with no option other than a postponement.
That uncertainty bled into preparations for Tulsa. Holgorsen entered the week with game plans devised for the Golden Hurricane, SMU and Memphis, whom the Cougars are scheduled to play Dec. 12. But if he isn't granted clearance to conduct the requisite practices in advance of the meeting with Tulsa, Holgorsen is unsure how that game would unfold as scheduled.
"We got the game plan ready, but if you don't ever practice I don't know how you can line up to play," Holgorsen said.
--Field Level Media