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Miami Beach Bowl: Tulsa routs Central Michigan

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange

MIAMI -- Tulsa wide receiver Josh Atkinson revealed on Monday night that his team has wristbands that say, "Tulsa versus Everybody."

The way the Golden Hurricane played on Monday afternoon in a 55-10 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas in the third annual Miami Beach Bowl, it looked like they could indeed take on the world.

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"I don't know that we've gotten the respect across the country that we deserve," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. "We have a really good football team."

Senior Dane Evans passed for five touchdowns to earn game MVP honors. And the fact that the game took place in a baseball stadium -- Marlins Park -- made it even more special for Evans.

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"Being a kid and playing baseball, too, I always dreamed of playing in a big-league stadium. But I had no idea I'd do it playing football," Evans said. "Yesterday when we came here, I rounded the bases on a home run trot. And I feel like this game was a home run trot."

Indeed it was for Tulsa. The 55 points tied the third most ever recorded by Tulsa (10-3) in a bowl game. Tulsa, which was a 13-point favorite, also locked up its first 10-win season since 2011.

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As for Evans, he is going home with more than the win and the MVP trophy.

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"I found a baseball in center," Evans said with a laugh. "Thanks (Miami Marlins slugger) Giancarlo (Stanton). ... He probably hit it out there."

Evans did Stanton proud in a football sense, putting up some big numbers. His fifth TD pass, to Keevan Lucas, set the Tulsa career record with 84. Evans completed 28 of 38 passes for 304 yards. He was not intercepted.

Lucas had three TD catches on the day -- a 13-yarder in the first quarter, a 28-yarder in the third quarter and an 11-yarder, also in the third.

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That last grab tied a prestigious school record with 32 career touchdown receptions, matching the number of two accomplished former NFL receivers -- Steve Largent and Howard Twilley.

Tulsa, which entered the game averaging 41.4 points this season, showed that its numbers were not a fluke.

The Golden Hurricane have two running backs -- James Flanders and D'Angelo Brewer -- who have combined for over 3,000 yards rushing and exactly 25 touchdowns this season.

Flanders rushed 17 times for 100 yards and one touchdown against Central Michigan. Brewer ran 17 times for 105 yards and no scores.

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In addition, Atkinson caught 12 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. He also went over 1,000 yards receiving for the season.

Once Atkinson did that, Tulsa became the first school in NCAA FBS history to have a 3,000-yard passer (Evans), two 1,000-yard rushers (Flanders and Brewer) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Lucas and Atkinson).

Tulsa never trailed in the game. On its first possession, Tulsa put together a massive 17-play, 93-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 5-yard pass from Hall to Atkinson. It was the longest Tulsa drive of the season in terms of yards and plays.

That drive was indicative of what was to come in every facet of the game. Redford Jones of Tulsa had a big game with two field goals -- 46 and 42 yards -- and six extra points. And Tulsa defensive end Jesse Brubaker also scored, running 66 yards with an interception.

"I got (a pick-six) in the first game of the year, and I did a front flip," Brubaker said. "This one was further away. I didn't have much energy left at the end."

Central Michigan (6-7) got a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter from Brian Eavey and a 13-yard touchdown run by Jahray Hayes in the fourth.

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This was the most points ever allowed in a bowl game by Central Michigan. The previous record was the 52 points the Chippewas allowed to UNLV in the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl.

The Chippewas, who upset Oklahoma State this season, closed out the year by dropping five of their final six games.

Chippewas coach John Bonamego said Tulsa's offense was tough to stop, especially due to the no-huddle tempo.

"They spread you out, and they have playmakers at every position," he said. "They wear you down. They nickel-and-dime you, and if you make a mistake, they can throw the ball over your head. It's a great system."

Chippewas senior quarterback Cooper Rush needed 253 yards in this game to set the Mid-American Conference career passing record. He fell just short, completing 24 of 49 for 241 yards with three interceptions.

"I wasn't trying to get the record," Rush said. "I was just trying to get completions. I was sick of seeing incompletions."

NOTES: Two coaches in this game have local ties. Tulsa defensive coordinator Bill Young served in the same role for the Miami Hurricanes in 2008. John Bonamego, who is in his second-year as Central Michigan's head coach, was a special teams coordinators for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 to 2010. Bonamego was a wide receiver/quarterback for Central Michigan in the 1980s. ... Both teams left cold weather behind -- 18 degrees in Tulsa on Monday and 12 degrees in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. At kickoff at Marlins Park, it was 82 degrees and sunny. ... The first two Miami Beach Bowls featured a lot of offense. Memphis beat Brigham Young 55-48 in 2014. Western Kentucky defeated South Florida 45-35 last year.

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