Tennial, Tulsa ground game bury Southern Miss

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- When Adrian Peterson had a freshman season
at Oklahoma that saw him finish second in the Heisman Trophy
voting, Courtney Tennial figured he wasn't going to get too many
opportunities to carry the ball for the Sooners.

Tulsa is glad to have him.

Tennial ran for 120 yards and a touchdown in his first career
start and Paul Smith threw for 201 yards and ran for a touchdown to
lead Tulsa to a 20-6 victory over Southern Mississippi on Tuesday

Tennial enrolled at Oklahoma in 2003 after setting the state's
rushing record with 3,426 yards as a senior at Glenpool High
School. He was redshirted his first year with the Sooners and then
didn't play at all in 2004 when Peterson burst onto the national

"There wasn't going to be a chance to have a lot of playing
time like I wanted, so transferring was the best option," Tennial

After having only 19 carries through Tulsa's first four games
this season, he had 21 against the Golden Eagles on his way to the
best rushing day of his career.

"It felt great, getting out there and getting several carries,
getting some carries in a row," he said. "I started feeling at

Tennial got the call after starter Tarrion Adams and backup
Brandon Diles both were injured. He found out earlier in the week
that he would be making the start.

"You never know when it's going to come and when your number is
called, you've got to step up and produce," Tulsa coach Steve
Kragthorpe said. "I'm really proud of Courtney tonight because he
did that."

The Golden Hurricane also got a 59-yard score in the first
quarter from Cauvey Jackson, who moved back from receiver to
running back after the injuries to Adams and Diles.

"If someone is in a situation where they can't go, we've got to
have some guys step up and we've had that the last couple of weeks.
We just keep finding guys that make plays when we turn the lights
on, and the more of them you have the better chance you have of
being competitive on game day," Kragthorpe said.

Smith scored from 7 yards out 2:33 into the fourth quarter to
give Tulsa (4-1, 1-0 Conference USA) a 13-6 lead. The Golden
Hurricane, the defending conference champions, then held Southern
Miss (3-2, 1-1) to one first down -- on a defensive holding call --
on its next two drives.

Tennial went in untouched from 2 yards out with 5:13 to play to
put Tulsa up 20-6.

"After what he's been through with all the transitions in his
life, especially with all the hype he had as a high school guy, we
knew what he was capable of," said Smith, who finished 16-of-25
without an interception.

Damion Fletcher ran for 95 yards on 18 carries in the first
half, but Southern Miss went away from the talented freshman
tailback after halftime.

Fletcher, whose 122.8-yard rushing average ranked eighth in the
nation, ended up with 112 yards on 25 carries. He's had at least
100 yards in four straight games since replacing Larry Thomas in
the starting lineup.

Fletcher said the Tulsa defense started controlling the line of
scrimmage in the second half and closing the running lanes he had
in the first half.

"We beat ourselves mentally tonight," Fletcher said. "I know
I messed up on a couple of plays."

Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said the Golden Eagles hurt
themselves with dropped passes and couldn't stop Smith -- running or
passing. Smith rushed for 69 yards on 10 carries.

Stephen Reaves took over for starting quarterback Jeremy Young
on the final drive of the first half, but threw 10 straight
incompletions at one point as the Golden Eagles' offense stalled in
the second half.

Reaves, a transfer from Michigan State, was 11-of-27 for 98
yards, while Young was 3-of-12 for 25 yards with one interception.

"We just didn't play," Bower said.