It was a game of extremes. So extreme that Tulsa wide receiver Damaris Johnson broke the NCAA career all-purpose yards record with 7,796 yards; the record was previously held by Western Michigan’s Brandon West, who finished with 7,764 yards.
Johnson tallied a career-high 326 all-purpose yards en route to MVP honors (98 yards rushing, 101 yards receiving, 109 yards from kick returns, 18 yards from punt returns, three total touchdowns).
“It hasn’t really hit me yet. I’m just trying to enjoy this win right now,” Johnson said with a smile. “Now we got this eight-hour flight home, and I’ll be thinking about just getting a little sleep maybe, and it’ll hit me in the morning about the record.”
The game was so extreme that Hawaii committed six turnovers in the first half. Starting quarterback Bryant Moniz threw four interceptions, including one that got returned for a touchdown, backup Shane Austin threw a pick-six after Moniz left with a hip injury, and wide receiver Greg Salas fumbled a punt return.
“I think they just studied really hard in those four weeks that they had to prepare. They knew our routes; it seems like they were jumping everything we had,” Moniz said.
The game was so extreme that in the second half, the Golden Hurricane had touchdown drives of 0:31, 0:50, 0:43, 2:27, and 3:31 while the Warriors had touchdown drives of 7:32, 1:10, and 1:36. Categorizing both offenses as quick-strike would be an understatement.
In the end, Moniz said, “We just weren’t able to match their offensive output and missed a few here and there.”
Head coach Greg McMackin added, “We came out at halftime and we talked about it. We were down by 13 points so really, we have them right where we want them as far as we just have to make up two touchdowns and we win the game. And we talked about that. Offense took it down and scored. Then we have the bad defensive effort, and I really think it was defensively.”
The game was so extreme that the 12-point underdogs came into the home stadium of the Warriors and beat the favorites by 27 points. “We were picked as the lock to get beat,” Tulsa head coach Todd Graham said.
“This football team did a great job preparing. I come down here and coach a bunch of guys, and I didn’t even have a curfew. Guys are just responsible, got guys with great character, and they’re truly champions on and off the field. Just a spectacular day.”
For the Hawaii seniors who just played their last game, like co-MVP Greg Salas, the defeat is painful. “It’s bittersweet. I like it here, I love the people here. I’ll never forget the people I’ve met here,” Salas said. “I’m going to be sad to go. You have to move forward in life, and this portion of my life is over now. I just thank all my teammates for making it a special season. Just wish we could’ve got this last one.”
As for Moniz, he’ll need some time to recover. “It’s rough ending a game like this,” he said. “It’s a long offseason to think about your last game and how you’ll be remembered.”
Unfortunately, extremes are not easily forgotten.