NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Paul Smith threw for three touchdowns and ran for two others to help Tulsa stay firmly in the Conference USA West Division race with a 49-25 victory over Tulane on Saturday.
Tulsa's Roy Roberts returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, while reserve quarterback A.J. Whitmore had a 56-yard touchdown run late in the game.
The victory for Tulsa (6-3, 4-2) sets up a pivotal home game next week against West Division-leading Houston (5-3, 4-1), which was slated to play Sunday night against SMU.
Tulane (2-7, 1-4) was as close as 21-18 after quarterback Anthony Scelfo's short touchdown run early in the second half, but Tulsa came right back with a nine-play 60-yard touchdown drive the ended with Smith's 1-yard keeper, and Golden Hurricane pulled away from there.
Tulane's Matt Forte ran for 103 yards, coming up one game short in his bid to tie an NCAA record by rushing for 200 or more yards in five straight games. Only three other players have done that: Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders and Jamario Thomas.
Scelfo was 17-of-28 passing with one touchdown and one interception.
Tulsa scored the game's opening touchdown on Smith's 4-yard quarterback keeper late in the first quarter and led 14-0 after Smith's scoring strike to Marion.
Tulsa could have been up by more if not for three first half turnovers on a pair of fumbles and an interception.
The Golden Hurricane was threatening to go ahead by three scores when Terrion Adams' fumble gave Tulane the ball at its own 17-yard line with 2:31 remaining in the second quarter.
Five plays later, Scelfo heaved a 44-yard touchdown pass to Brian King to cut Tulsa's lead in half.
That was only the beginning of three scores in the span of 1:11, however.
Roberts took back the ensuing kickoff. Then Tulane, taking over with 59 seconds to go in the half, marched back down field, with the help of two 24-yard completions by Scelfo, setting up Ross Thevenot's 34-yard kick that made it 21-10 as time expired in the second quarter.
Tulane recovered an onside kick to open the second half and drove for another touchdown as Scelfo went in on a keeper from a yard out and Forte ran in for a 2-point conversion. That closed the gap to a field goal before Tulsa pulled away for good, starting with Smith's 6-yard TD pass to Kyle Grooms.