MOBILE, Ala. (AP) – Tulsa raced through the rain to another GMAC Bowl win and a couple more records, too. Tarrion Adams rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-13 victory over No. 23 Ball State on a soggy Tuesday night. The Golden Hurricane (11-3) finished with a school-record 11 victories.
Adams passed Micheal Gunter to become Tulsa’s career rushing leader. Tulsa had 439 yards rushing and 632 overall _ hardly slowing down a bit by rain that first formed puddles and then covered nearly the entire field during a second-half deluge.
“We expected to win. We weren’t going to have it any other way,” Golden Hurricane coach Todd Graham said. “I felt like where we had an advantage on them was how physical we are.
“We got into a rhythm early and we had them off-balance on some things.”
David Johnson passed for 193 yards and three touchdowns, most of that to freshman Damaris Johnson. Tulsa kicker Jarod Tracy became the school’s career scoring leader.
Adams needed just 19 carries, though one was a season-long 56-yard touchdown scamper.
“My teammates wanted me to break the record more than I wanted to break the record,” he said. “They told me where I was after every series.”
Tulsa’s 63-7 win over Bowling Green in last year’s GMAC was the most lopsided bowl game in NCAA history. This was another runaway thanks to the nation’s No. 2 offense and a capitalistic defense.
Yes, defense. Ball State didn’t manage a first down or complete a pass in the second half, netting 22 yards.
“I thought it was stellar,” Graham said. “We’ve won back-to-back bowl championships and we’ve given up two touchdowns. To have somebody get zero first downs in a half, that’s pretty good.”
Ball State (12-2) fell to 0-5 in bowl games after recording a school-record 12 wins.
Damaris Johnson supplied many of the big plays for Tulsa’s no-huddle offense and had 274 all-purpose yards. He had 135 yards receiving, 76 yards rushing _ including a tackle-breaking 62-yarder in the fourth quarter _ and returned three kicks for 63 yards.
Three of his teammates ran for at least 58 yards as well.
The Cardinals had been giving up just 142 yards a game on the ground and 348 total.
It was a rough debut for Ball State coach Stan Parrish, a 62-year-old promoted from offensive coordinator on Dec. 18 after Brady Hoke left to take over the San Diego State program.
Most of the second half was played in a driving rain, making a comeback attempt by quarterback Nate Davis and Ball State even more difficult.
It might have been the final college game for Davis, who has indicated he was considering skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft. He was 9-of-29 passing for 145 yards and lost two fumbles and an interception in the first half. Davis was not made available for interviews after the game. He was 0-for-10 in the second half.
Parrish said he injured his right, throwing hand in the third quarter and was getting it X-rayed after the game.
With that help, Tulsa built a 24-13 halftime lead, with all three touchdowns on plays of at least 30 yards. Ball State hadn’t been down going into the locker room this season.
Tulsa marched 87 yards on the opening drive of the second half, capping it with David Johnson’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Slick Shelley. Ball State couldn’t come close to answering, going three-and-out on all three possessions of the third quarter.
Leading rusher MiQuale Lewis, who gained over 1,700 yards this season, was limited to 35 on 16 carries.
The Cardinals lost their final two games after setting a school mark with 12 wins in a perfect regular season. They earned the first national ranking in program history this season.
“There’s no question it tainted our season,” Parrish said. “When you come that close to perfection, you want to grab it all.”
Davis lost fumbles on Ball State’s first two drives, with the first setting up David Johnson’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Damaris Johnson across the middle.
Davis redeemed himself with a 17-yard touchdown run to tie it up late in the first quarter.
Then Ball State’s Kyle Young blocked a punt at Tulsa’s 22-yard line. Three incompletions later, Ball State had to settle for Ian McGarvey’s 39-yard field goal and a 17-10 deficit.
Adams added his 56-yarder before Davis nearly got the Cardinals back within a score, thanks to a bulldozing, spinning run down to the Tulsa 7 in the final minute. Tulsa stood again, forcing a field goal and Ball State didn’t challenge again.
Neither the defense nor the rain was able to stop Tulsa’s offense.
“We were very much in it at halftime,” Parrish said. “But Tulsa ran the ball, they threw the ball. They’ve got a tough offense to stop,” Parrish said. “Even Mother Nature didn’t slow them down as much as it slowed us down.”
John Zenor AP
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