Tulsa 28, Notre Dame 27 on late INT
A moment of silence was observed, and once both teams took the field, the afternoon began to resemble to some extent any other football weekend in South Bend, along with visible reminders of Sullivan's passing – chiefly the helmet decals worn by both teams. The game itself, a 28-27 Tulsa victory sealed by a last-minute interception, was not the immediate focus when Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly stepped to the postgame press conference podium. Kelly, who had not previously talked publicly about the matter, spoke for nearly 12 minutes about the life and death of Sullivan, before answering a few questions on the subject. "It's been, from a personal perspective, a very difficult week for all of us," Kelly said. "I focused strictly on the Sullivan family, our football family and my own family. Really, that's been all the things that have taken up my time since this tragedy occurred." Sullivan died while filming practice when a lift he was using fell on a windy day. Kelly said he made the decision that day "that we could have a productive and safe practice outdoors." He said safety systems in place when it comes to practice decisions are under investigation. "Weather-related factors are examined every day relative to that safe atmosphere," Kelly said. "We've got systems in place to deal with that. We're obviously examining them very, very carefully, especially, obviously, wind." Turning to the game itself: The Golden Hurricane prevailed when Kelly decided to go for the end zone instead of attempt a game-winning field goal. On second and 8 from the 19, with 42 seconds left, quarterback Tommy Rees threw for Michael Floyd in the right corner of the end zone. Tulsa's John Flanders intercepted. "We knew we had a one-on-one matchup with Mike Floyd," Kelly said of his decision. "You better get used to it, because that's the way we're playing. If we can get a one-on-one matchup, and we think we can get that accomplished, we're going to call that play again and again. We'll make that play. We didn't make it today. But in time, we'll make that play." Tulsa set up its victory with a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Kavanaugh with 3:23 to go in the contest. Quarterback G.J. Kinne converted a third and 26 with a 31-yard completion to Ricky Johnson in a key defensive letdown for the Irish. Rees threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Cierre Wood to put the Irish ahead 27-18. Tulsa responded with a highlight-reel punt return touchdown by elusive Damaris Johnson that covered 59 yards. Tulsa, a team with a wide-open offense and suspect defense, combined with the Irish to deliver a wild first half. The Golden Hurricane struck first on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Kinne to Johnson. Notre Dame responded with a 10-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Rees, subbing for injured starter Dayne Crist, to Floyd. David Ruffer's extra point attempt was blocked by Tulsa's Cory Dorris, and Curneilus Arnick returned it for a 2-point score. A 37-yard Fitzpatrick field goal made it 12-6 Tulsa. Kelly reached into his bag of tricks to give Notre Dame the lead. Rees threw to TJ Jones, who caught the short pass and flipped the ball back to running back Wood. Wood raced into the end zone from 25 yards out – 13-12 Notre Dame, end of the first quarter, and we were just getting started. Notre Dame used a fake punt to turn a fourth and 10 into a first down, with Bennett Jackson hurdling a defender for a 20-yard game, setting up a Rees-to-Floyd 4-yard touchdown. Rees kept throwing, piling up 179 passing yards in the first half, but Tulsa (5-3) turned one attempt late in the second quarter into six points. Arnick deflected a short pass, and Shawn Jackson intercepted, returning the pick 66 yards for a score. Crist is apparently out for the season, although Kelly said that was not immediately confirmed. He suffered a knee tendon injury, this time to his left knee. Almost exactly a year ago, his season was ended after suffering torn right knee ligaments. Running back Armando Allen was a scratch with a hip injury. Kelly said after the game that the injury might end the senior's season, and Notre Dame career.
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