SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Tulsa coach Todd Graham and Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly must have been watching two different games Saturday.
Graham watched the one where his Golden Hurricanes "clouded" Irish receiver Michael Floyd with 40 seconds to play, intercepted a pass thrown his way in the end zone and twisted out of town with a 28-27 victory.
Kelly described what he saw as single-coverage on Floyd and asked freshman quarterback Tommy Rees to go for the touchdown on second down from the 19-yard line. A short field goal by David Ruffer, who is 18-for-18 in his career, would have safely sufficed.
"We pretty much [were] over and under, cloud covered, what we call cloud coverage [on Floyd]," Graham said. "We did that to Floyd most of the game, just trying to disrupt him."
That's what it looked like. Kelly disagreed.
"Yeah, we knew we had a one-on-one match-up with Mike Floyd," he said. "We certainly wanted to give that an opportunity for success and score a touchdown there. Took a timeout there to talk about it. I think we all know what happened there."
What happened was Kelly's already souring debut season in South Bend turned into a living nightmare.
Tulsa's John Flanders picked off Rees, who was in for injured starter Dayne Crist, in the end zone with 36 seconds remaining.
"But keep in mind, you better get used to it because that's the way we're playing," an unabashed Kelly added.
Yeah, not sure anyone else feels the same way, coach. For the first time this season, at least at Notre Dame Stadium, Irish fans completely turned on Kelly as ND slipped to 4-5. As the Golden Hurricanes (5-3) celebrated a victory, here's a sampling of the slams from the first few rows:
"Go back to Cincy."
"You blew it."
"What's the matter with you, Kelly?"
"You're a disgrace."
He's in a bad spot, that's for sure. Crist left the game in the first quarter before completing a single pass. The junior scrambled for 29 yards, was knocked out of bounds by Tulsa linebacker Tanner Antle and immediately grabbed his left knee. Crist was helped to the locker room by medical staff and his left leg was in a full brace.
An NBC report during the game called it a ruptured patella tendon, which would likely cost Crist the rest of the season.
"I'll have to get more information before I confirm, deny what it is," Kelly said. "But it's a severe injury, I can tell you that, just seeing Dayne briefly.”
Here's information about the terribly embarrassing loss to Tulsa (5-3) that we do have:
Rees turns in admirable performance
Entering Saturday's contest, Crist had 2,033 passing yards. Rees had 79. Good luck, kid.
But Reese threw for 334 yards and his four touchdown passes are the most ever by an Irish freshman. He completed 33 of 54 passes -- the second-most connections in school history. He did, however, toss three interceptions. Whether or not he should have been put in position to throw the third is certainly up for debate.
"Awesome," Kelly said of Rees' afternoon. "Are you kidding me? I couldn't be more happy for the kid. True freshman going out there, hasn't played [much]. He just competes. Took some big hits, got right back up. I don't know if he knew where he was a couple times. ... We've got to score more points.
But I love the way the kid competed."
He's probably going to get at least three more opportunities if Crist is indeed done for the year.
"I just want to be there for my teammates," Rees said. "Obviously, like I said, didn't end up how we wanted to. I gained some confidence. I think the team has some confidence in me now. Just try to keep pushing forward. Just got to keep pushing and get prepared for Utah [after a bye week]."
Tulsa defense did serious damage
The Golden Hurricanes scored just one offensive touchdown, a nine-yard pass from G.J. Kinne to Damaris Johnson in the first quarter. Notre Dame answered with a Floyd TD catch, but the extra point was blocked and returned for two points by Curnelius Arnick.
Tulsa added a field goal and a 66-yard interception return by Shawn Jackson to round out the first half. Johnson returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and kicker Kevin Fitzpatrick added what turned out to be the winning field goal from 27 yards out with 3:23 remaining in the fourth.
"I'm just going to cherish it right now," said Jackson, a freshman linebacker. ... It's going to mean so much going back into [Conference USA] play.
Allen's career at ND could be over
Senior tailback Armando Allen, who has been dealing with a hip flexor, did not play against Tulsa and might be out for good. The Floridian had rushed for 535 yards this year, averaging a team-high 64.2 per game.
"It's not a good situation," Kelly said. "He may have played his last down here at Notre Dame because of the injury. ... It's the labrum. It's now torn cartilage. He may need surgery. He may be out. We're not certain on that. But he wanted to dress and run through the tunnel in case it was his last time playing at Notre Dame."
Tulsa's victory was its first against a BCS opponent since a 1998 win over Oklahoma State, breaking an 0-19 losing streak.
"I just can't describe it," said Graham, who was a high school coach ten years ago. "... Biggest win ever [in my career]. No question in my mind. I don't want to put down the championship teams I've had an opportunity to coach in the past, but as far as a single game, to come here, growing up as a kid, loving college football ... Man, I remember when I was in seventh grade, I dreamed of being a college football coach, a college football player. To be able to get to fulfill my dream ...
"Guys, in 2000, I was coaching at Allen High School [in Texas]. To be sitting up here and get this opportunity to do this ... Boy, means a lot to me."