Scores

Final

Tulsa 25

(9-4, 6-2 C-USA)

UCF 44

(10-3, 7-1 American)

12:00 PM ET, December 1, 2007

BH Networks Stadium, ORLANDO, FL

1 2 3 4 T
TLSA 13 10 0 225
UCF 10 21 6 744

Top Performers

Passing: P. Smith (TLSA) - 426 YDS, 3 TD, 3 INT

Rushing: K. Smith (UCF) - 39 CAR, 284 YDS, 4 TD

Receiving: C. Clay (TLSA) - 6 REC, 112 YDS, 1 TD

Tulsa can't contain Smith as UCF clinches first C-USA title

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Central Florida junior Kevin Smith has run through 13 teams for 2,448 yards this season. Now all that stands in his way is a Hall of Fame rusher who hasn't played college ball in 19 years.

Smith had 284 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday as Central Florida beat Tulsa 44-25 for the Conference USA championship. He moved into second place behind Barry Sanders on the NCAA's single-season rushing list, and still has one game left, UCF's Dec. 29 Liberty Bowl appearance.

As he had all year, the 6-foot-1, 211-pound junior downplayed his gaudy numbers.

"I'm expected to be back there and make the right cut at the right time," Smith said. "You can't run up the sideline without a hole. My guys gave it to me, and I tried not to let them down."

Then, perhaps his biggest understatement: "Coach gives me the ball a lot."

Smith on Saturday also set the NCAA all-time single-season record in season rushing attempts with 415, 12 more than Marcus Allen had at USC in 1981. Allen had been ahead of Smith in season rushing yardage, but the junior passed him with a six-yard carry in the third quarter. Smith had 24 carries for 161 yards at halftime, and piled up even more with a 74-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

"I have coached in the BCS, and I can guarantee you that he is as good as anybody in the country," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said. "No question about it."

It was the second time in three years the teams played for the conference championship. Tulsa (9-4, 6-3) won in 2005, but the Golden Hurricane's star quarterback Paul Smith made too many mistakes this time.

Paul Smith passed for 426 yards, his third 400-yard game this season, on 28 of 55 completions, but threw three interceptions. Two were in the second half, and each one happened inside or near the end zone.

"They play as well as anyone we've played -- physicality, speed, strength," Paul Smith said.

UCF led 31-23 at halftime, but couldn't stop Paul Smith early. The Golden Hurricane, the country's top offense with 548 yards a game, rolled up 376 yards and 13 first downs. The Knights let Smith slip out of several third-and-long situations with long completions over the middle, including a 29-yarder to Trae Johnson on third-and-12 that set up Tulsa's first score.

But the Knights clamped down in the second half, pressuring Smith into Tulsa's third-worst offensive outing of the season. UCF used the same blueprint when the teams met in the regular season, picking off four Smith passes in a 44-23 win.

"A lot of it is they've got some really, really explosive guys up front, and I think that's the key to their defense," Graham said.

Down 37-23, Tulsa stayed alive when Paul Smith found Brennan Marion for a 33-yard completion on fourth down to the Knights' 3-yard-line. Despite four chances at point-blank rage, Tulsa couldn't score until it turned the ball over on downs and tackled UCF QB Kyle Israel for a safety.

Knights coach George O'Leary saved a touchdown in the second quarter after Paul Smith ran in an eight-yard draw. The Golden Hurricane lined up for the extra point, but O'Leary challenged, saying Tulsa had 12 players on the field. The review showed he was correct, and Tulsa came away without any points when Smith was intercepted by Johnell Neal at the 5-yard-line.

Cornerback Joe Burnett scored UCF's first TD on an 83-yard punt return. It was the school's first since the conference title game last year, when he ran one back 68 yards.

The real offense was coming from the Smiths. Tulsa's senior Paul turned in his 13th straight 300-yard game after never having one before this year.

Kevin Smith's four touchdowns gave him 30 on the season, fourth-best in history behind Sanders (39), Boise State's Brock Forsey (32) and Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards (31).

Smith is now 180 yards behind Sanders, and averages 188 a game. After getting little recognition, the chase and Smith's nationally televised performance might nudge Heisman Trophy voters who held onto their ballots to push him higher.

"Kevin's been special every game, I think from the first to the twelfth, and hopefully people recognize that," O'Leary said. "I think this game went out over the nation, and they saw a guy that comes out and plays like he's supposed to play."

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Team Stat Comparison

 
TLSA
UCF
1st Downs2418
Total Yards470436
Passing438128
Rushing32308
Penalties8-743-25
3rd Down Conversions8-213-10
4th Down Conversions3-50-0
Turnovers31
Possession32:4927:11

Passing Leaders

TulsaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Smith28/554267.733
UCFC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Israel6/131289.800

Rushing Leaders

TulsaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Adams18412.3011
Whitmore4266.5014
UCFCARYDSAVGTDLG
Smith392847.3474
Israel6345.7015

Receiving Leaders

TulsaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Clay611218.7138
Johnson69916.5129
UCFRECYDSAVGTDLG
Ross36321.0025
Aiken13232.0032

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERTLSAUCF
FG10:54Michael Torres 28 Yd
Drive: 7 plays, 47 yds, 2:38
03
TD07:52Joe Burnett 83 Yd Punt Return (Michael Torres Kick) 010
TD04:58Charles Clay 22 Yd Pass From Paul Smith (Jarod Tracy Kick)
Drive: 7 plays, 65 yds, 2:54
710
TD01:56Jacob Collums 8 Yd Pass From Paul Smith (Pat Failed)
Drive: 5 plays, 48 yds, :56
1310
SECOND QUARTERTLSAUCF
TD13:18Kevin Smith 3 Yd Run (Michael Torres Kick)
Drive: 8 plays, 69 yds, 3:38
1317
TD10:03Kevin Smith 46 Yd Run (Michael Torres Kick) 1324
TD07:38Trae Johnson 27 Yd Pass From Paul Smith (Jarod Tracy Kick) 2024
TD03:29Kevin Smith 4 Yd Run (Michael Torres Kick) 2031
FG01:38Jarod Tracy 32 Yd 2331
THIRD QUARTERTLSAUCF
FG04:01Michael Torres 21 Yd
Drive: 6 plays, 36 yds, 2:50
2334
FG00:03Michael Torres 45 Yd
Drive: 7 plays, 9 yds, 2:00
2337
FOURTH QUARTERTLSAUCF
SF10:56Kyle Israel Tackled By Moton Hopkins In End Zone 2537
TD07:12Kevin Smith 74 Yd Run (Michael Torres Kick)
Drive: 4 plays, 89 yds, 2:12
2544