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Tulsa beats Hawaii 62-35 in Hawaii Bowl

Tulsa's defense did its part in the Hawaii Bowl, pounding the quarterback and jumping in front of pass routes to force six turnovers in the first half alone.

Then it was the offense's turn, and that was no less impressive.

In a four-minute span early in the second half, the Golden Hurricane covered 206 yards in six plays for touchdowns on three straight possessions, sending Tulsa to a 62-35 victory over No. 24 Hawaii on Christmas Eve in Aloha Stadium.

"What an exciting football game to watch," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said. "We made some unbelievably explosive plays in the second half and we beat a Top 25 team today. And hopefully, we should be the Top 25 in the country."

Damaris Johnson, voted the MVP of the Hawaii Bowl, had his own ranking by the end of the night.

With a command performance just about every time he touched the ball, Johnson caught four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, and ran five times for 98 yards, including a game-changing, 67-yard touchdown run that demoralized the Warriors (10-4).

Johnson, who came into the Hawaii Bowl leading the nation in all-purpose yards, finished with 326 yards to break the NCAA career record. The speedy junior has 7,796 all-purpose yards, topping the 7,764 yards that Brandon West had at Western Michigan in 2006-09.

"He's a great player," said Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, who threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns. "He breaks records every week, it feels like it. It's a privilege to play with him. We got one more year together."

Tulsa (10-3) finished the year with seven straight wins.

It was a sour ending for the Warriors on their home field. Bryant Moniz threw four interceptions in the opening half, one that linebacker Tanner Antle leaped high to pick off at the goal line early in the game, another than Curnelius Arnick returned 54 yards for a touchdown.

Moniz also was thrown to the ground by Tyrunn Walker in the first quarter, forcing him to miss two series.

Nothing mattered for the Warriors. Shane Austin led Hawaii on a touchdown drive, then threw an interception that John Flanders returned 54 yards for a touchdown.

"Terrible performance in our last game," Moniz said. "They had good pressure up front. They studied really hard in those four weeks that they had to prepare. It seemed like they were jumping all of our routes, so in the second half we went a little more deep."

Even when the Warriors finally got on track, Tulsa easily kept pace.

Tulsa was clinging to a 27-21 lead early in the second half, with momentum in Hawaii's favor. On first-and-10, Kinne took off toward the left sideline on an option, then pulled back at the last second when the defense converged on him.

That left him a sight that was beautiful even by Oahu's standards — Johnson camped out behind the coverage alone. Kinne dumped the pass off to him, and the 5-foot-8 receiver zipped across the field, dodging defenders, then up the sideline until he was caught 57 yards later. Kinne lobbed up a pass that Jameel Owens caught in the end zone on the next play for a 15-yard touchdown.

Both teams came on and off the field more quickly than a line change in hockey.

Moniz scrambled and found Jeremiah Ostrowski behind coverage for a 54-yard gain to the 1, and Alex Green punched it on the next play to complete a three-play drive.

Two plays later, Johnson went in motion and took a quick handoff from Kinne, darted around right end and outran everyone to the end zone for a 67-yard score. After Hawaii had to punt, Tulsa went 57 yards in two plays, with Kinne hitting Thomas Roberson in stride for a 47-yard touchdown that made it 48-28.

"I think our pace started to get to them," Kinne said.

Tulsa won a bowl game for the third straight time, a school record. It also set a school record for bowl games with six turnovers, all of them in the first half. Its 62 points were a record for the Hawaii Bowl.

Greg Salas, playing in his final game for Hawaii, had to be consoled before the trophy presentation. He had 13 catches for a career-high 214 yards and two touchdowns, and set Hawaii single-season record for receptions (119) and receiving yards (1,889).

"We had way too many turnovers, and it cost us," said Salas, who fumbled a punt return late in the first half that led to a Tulsa field goal. "We turned the ball over in key situations. It just goes to show you that the team with the most yards doesn't always win."

The number didn't add up in this game.

Tulsa had only 94 yards of offense in the opening half, yet still led 27-14.

The Golden Hurricane, which was ranked No. 119 in passing defense, gave up 479 yards in the air and 550 yards of total offense. But the defense was the key in the first half, and even in the third quarter by stopping Hawaii during a seven-minute shootout.

"You're not going to win a game if you turn the ball over six times," Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said. "Give credit to Tulsa. They did a good job. They have good players and they have good speed. They ran by us a couple times — more than a couple times."

Hawaii, which shared the WAC title with Boise State and Nevada, fell to 3-3 in the Hawaii Bowl.