Tulsa coach pleased with team's response to adversity

Updated: October 26, 2003, 1:18 PM ET

TULSA, Okla. -- Maybe, just a little bit, Tulsa coach Steve Kragthrope says, his team is starting to expect to win.

The Golden Hurricane's 35-16 victory over Southern Methodist has lifted a program dogged by 11 straight losing seasons to 4-4, 2-2 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Kragthorpe even saw hints of celebration after Saturday's win.

"I know they're excited. I can tell that just by the way they're acting," he said. "They're not quite as vocal. We still have postponed dance lessons until next semester. We're getting better, though."

James Kilian threw for 177 yards and five touchdowns against the Mustangs, something that Tulsa hasn't seen since Gus Frerotte threw for six touchdowns against East Carolina in 1993.

It was the Golden Hurricane's first time to beat SMU (0-8, 0-5 WAC) after seven straight series losses.

"We just didn't throw the ball very well," coach Phil Bennett said. "We didn't execute on either side of the ball."

Freshman quarterback Chris Phillips, making his first collegiate start, couldn't overcome a fierce northern breeze or 119 yards lost to penalties.

He ended up alternating with previous starter Tate Wallis, and the pair completed only 6 of 16 pass attempts for 51 yards.

"Basically, you could only throw when you were going south," Bennett said. "Tulsa made some thing difficult on us as well, and made some reads difficult on our quarterbacks at times."

The Mustangs narrowed a 14-point Tulsa lead to 5 points at 21-16 when Jonas Rutledge returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown with 11:47 remaining in the game.

But then Kilian met Garrett Mills on a 4-yard pass for a touchdown with 10:02 left and found Romby Bryant for a 43-yard touchdown pass less than two minutes later to lock in on a homecoming victory.

Mills finished with three touchdown receptions and Bryant had two.

Kragthorpe said the touchdown drive after SMU's interception was critical.

"I talked to our offense right after the interception and said, `Hey, this is the defining drive. We have to take it down and regain the momentum,' and our guys did that," Kragthorpe said.

Kilian said he and his teammates have been expecting to win every game they've played. But he said the whole team got a boost by the way the Golden Hurricane overcame SMU's early 7-0 lead.

"Coming back and scoring two in a row was big, a big lift not only offensively but just for the whole team," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index