In a dominant performance despite monsoon conditions during the second half of the GMAC Bowl against Ball State, Tulsa pounded the Cardinals 45-13 and ran roughshod over a defense that had been solid all season long.
Consider these numbers. Tulsa scored 45 points on 31 first downs. Despite being known by many as a passing offense, the Golden Hurricane rushed for 441 yards on 64 carries. Leading the charge was MVP Tarrion Adams with 210 yards and three scores on just 19 attempts. Throw in 195 passing yards and three scores from quarterback David Johnson and you have an astounding 636 yards of total offense in the game.
Malzahn says he was happy to be able to show what his offense was all about one last time before heading to Auburn.
"It's good to go out with this group," Malzahn tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I'm very close to this group and this coaching staff. It was fun to cap it off like this in a bowl game.
"It was what I've tried to say," he adds. "We're a run/play-action team. We'll take our shots when we have them, but that's pretty much what you'll see."
It didn't take long for Tulsa's offense to get going. Following a sack and caused fumble on Ball State quarterback Nate Davis on the first possession of the game, Tulsa got to work on offense.
After a three-yard run on first down, Johnson connected on a seven-yard strike for the game's initial first down. On second and 10 from the 30 Johnson hit speedy freshman Damaris Johnson down the middle for a touchdown to put Tulsa up 7-0 early. The drive covered 40 yards in 1:16.
Ball State answered back led by Davis. After his second fumble of the game on the second possession, the Cardinals held Tulsa and forced a punt. Davis then marched Ball State down the field on a 62-yard, five-play drive. He finished the drive on a touchdown run to tie the game at seven.
Following a big kickoff return by Johnson to the 41-yard line, Tulsa got back to work on offense as a screen pass on third and nine gained 12 yards to the Ball State 46.
On first down Johnson kept the ball on a zone read out of the shotgun and raced 31 yards down to the Ball State 15. The drive stalled from there as Tulsa kicked a 30-yard field goal to take a 10-7 advantage. The drive was 46 yards on eight plays and took 1:55 off the clock.
Tulsa opened the lead even more on its next drive. Starting from its own 33, the Golden Hurricane ripped off 22 yards on a pass from Johnson to start the drive.
Now inside Ball State territory, Tulsa converted on a third and 12 from the 47 when David Johnson hit Damaris Johnson for 21 yards down to the 26. Speeding things up, Tulsa gave the ball to Tarrion Adams for runs of 18 and a touchdown plunge from the two. The drive covered 67 yards on eight plays to put Tulsa up 17-7.
Following a blocked punt by Ball State that led to a field goal, Malzahn's offense got the ball back and delivered. Taking over on the 20, Johnson scrambled for 13 big yards to gain a first down and put the Golden Hurricane in business.
Two plays later he hit Damaris Johnson for 13 yards to move it to the 43 and set the stage for Adams. Taking the handoff out of the shotgun and turning the corner, Adams outran the defense for a 57-yard score to put Tulsa up 24-10. The drive covered 80 yards in six plays and took 1:58.
Ball State added a late field goal in the half to make it 24-13 after 30 minutes of action.
Coming out in the second half the Tulsa offense faced an additional defender as a monsoon-like downpour came through Mobile during halftime and extended into the second half.
Taking over on its own 13, the Golden Hurricane gained 14 on an option play and never looked back on the opening drive. On third and five, Johnson hit Johnson for 27 yards to the Ball State 41.
Another Johnson to Johnson connection for 22 yards put the ball inside the 20-yard line. From there Johnson hit Slick Shelley on a third and six pass for a 15-yard touchdown. The score capped an 87-yard, eight-play drive, took just over three minutes, and put Tulsa up 31-13.
"It was raining like crazy," Malzahn says of the second half. "We were just trying to hold on to the football. We had to get a little conservative. You do what you've got to do to win."
With the game in hand, Tulsa went to the ground on its next drive and demolished a tired Ball State defense. On a drive that covered 56 yards, Tulsa ran it six times with Adams finishing off the drive with his third touchdown of the game. The touchdown put the Golden Hurricane up 38-13 and put the nail in Ball State's coffin on a rainy night in the Port City.
Following another defensive stand by the Tulsa defense, Malzahn's offense again pounded Ball State into submission on the ground. Taking over at its own 12, the Golden Hurricane got under center for one of the few plays on the day and ran a counter sweep. Speedy Damaris Johnson raced 62 yards before finally being corralled by the Ball State defense. Three runs later and the ball sat at the 12-yard line where quarterback David Johnson hit tight end Jacob Frank for a touchdown to put Tulsa up 45-13. The drive covered 88 yards in just five plays.
That was all she wrote as Tulsa captured the GMAC Bowl and for a moment Malzahn did the same with Auburn fans. In his final game he put up numbers that Auburn fans can only dream about and now he says he'll head to his dream job with the Tigers.
"Auburn is a great opportunity," Malzahn says. "I'm tickled to death to start. We're going to do the same thing we did here.
"You pray about things and do what is the best for you and your family," he adds. "Now I'm just tickled to death to go to Auburn and get started."