7:30 PM ET, October 3, 2006
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 night.
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 scene.
"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 said.
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 home."
"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.