TULSA, Okla. -- With a chance to stand alone in the college football spotlight, Tulsa brought out a couple of former legends to be a part of the celebration.
After all the pomp and circumstance was over, the current stars of the nation's top offense finally showed what all the hubbub is about.
David Johnson threw for 264 yards and a touchdown, ran for two more scores and No. 18 Tulsa overpowered UCF 49-19 Sunday night in the Golden Hurricane's first game in the Top 25 in 17 years.
"That's a pretty big-time, dominating performance. I think it speaks volumes and it makes a statement about our program and what we're doing," Golden Hurricane coach Todd Graham said.
Getting the only college game on an NFL-free Sunday night, Tulsa pulled out all the stops by honoring future Hall of Fame coach John Cooper in a second quarter break and retiring former receiver Steve Largent's No. 83 jersey at halftime. But the real fun only started when the Golden Hurricane (8-0, 5-0 Conference USA) got out of an unexpected halftime hole.
Damaris Johnson provided the spark, making up for a critical first-half fumble by returning the second-half kickoff 70 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown. David Johnson zoomed in from 10 yards out to give Tulsa a 21-19 lead, and he kept the nation's top-ranked offense in gear from there on out.
The win helped make up for last season's pair of losses to the Knights (2-5, 1-2), including one in the Conference USA championship game, and moved Tulsa to 8-0 for only the sixth time in school history.
"It's pretty crazy, I'm not going to lie. It's obviously been a long time since we've been where we are," David Johnson said.
UCF held Tulsa to a season-low 436 yards, nearly 200 below its 625-yard average, but had only 187 yards of its own.
Courtney Tennial scored on a 1-yard dive to complete a drive that was extended by Trae Johnson's leaping 29-yard catch on fourth-and-13 and again when David Johnson fumbled and then got the ball back after defensive back Johnell Neal coughed it right back up.
The country's top-rated quarterback added a 2-yard touchdown run and a 15-yard TD toss to a diving Damaris Johnson as the Golden Hurricane kept pulling away.
"I think the nation got to see what Tulsa football is all about tonight and, I'm going to tell you, it's pretty impressive," Graham said.
The Golden Hurricane came into the game in the Top 25 for the first time since 1991 and in 18th place in the BCS standings, hoping to break in as the latest BCS buster.
But for a brief time in the second quarter, it appeared Tulsa might give the game away as the Knights put up 19 straight points without having to rely much on the nation's worst offense.
Daren Daly hit a 54-yard field goal after Michael Such's punt got held up in the wind and went only 14 yards, and it only got worse from there. Damaris Johnson fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and receiver Brian Watters recovered and then caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Rob Calabrese three plays later for a 17-14 UCF lead.
A penalty on the kickoff pushed the Golden Hurricane back for the start of their next drive, and David Johnson had to track down a bad snap on second down and knock it out of the end zone for a safety that made it 19-14 at halftime.
"There was no panic," Tulsa offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. "That's the best thing. There was no panic. Our guys have a lot of confidence."
Damaris Johnson said he was down after his fumble helped put Tulsa behind but concentrated on the team's mantra to "recommit" after mistakes.
"I kind of felt like I let the team down a little bit," he said. "I just felt the next kickoff would be my next chance to help the team out."
Once Tulsa got back on top, Calabrese became the target of the Golden Hurricane's defense. Tanner Antle, James Lockett and Roy Roberts each contributed to Tulsa's total of nine sacks on the same second-half drive and the Knights wound up with only 38 yards after halftime.
"We flat got after their quarterback in a big way," Graham said.
Watters had seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns for UCF, and freshman Brynn Harvey ran 24 times for 91 yards in his first career start.
"I told them on that on the ride home, think about what they did the second half and how much better we could have got things done," UCF coach George O'Leary said.