Tulsa’s Jackson Steals the Show, 28-17 : Freedom Bowl: He outrushes San Diego State’s Faulk, 211 yards to 157, and scores four times.
When Tulsa Coach David Rader insisted that his football team wouldn’t be hurt by the suspension of tailback Chris Hughley, he wasn’t kidding.
If anything, Rader understated the case. Ron Jackson, Hughley’s backup, looked like an All-American as he ran San Diego State’s Aztecs into the Anaheim Stadium turf, 28-17, before 34,217 in the Freedom Bowl.
Jackson, a 207-pound junior from Jefferson, Tex., gained 211 yards in 46 carries, caught a pass for 14 yards and scored all four Tulsa touchdowns. There wasn’t anything the Aztecs could do to stop him.
It isn’t easy to steal the spotlight from the Aztecs’ Marshall Faulk, but Jackson did it with a display of running that had the Aztec defenders gasping. His four touchdowns and 46 carries set Freedom Bowl records.
This is not to say that Faulk fell short of the expectations he created by becoming the third player in history to make the Associated Press All-American team. On the contrary, he rushed for 157 yards and one touchdown in 30 carries and caught nine passes for 42 yards.
What hurt Faulk and the Aztecs was the deterioration of their passing game in the second half. After completing 17 of 26 passes before intermission, quarterback David Lowery skidded to two of 11 for a loss of five yards.
The score was tied, 7-7 and 14-14, the latter at halftime, but Jackson’s third touchdown untied it for good with 1 minute 50 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Aztecs closed to 21-17 on a field goal by Andy Trakas early in the final quarter, but punt returner T.C. Wright handed the Golden Hurricane its clinching touchdown with 3:59 remaining when he fumbled the ball and Tulsa recovered on the four.
Jackson, who drew the starting assignment because Hughley had fallen below Tulsa’s academic standards, was modest about his accomplishments.
“I was surprised when they told me I was MVP,” he said. “This was my best game by far. I owe a lot to the coaches who called the plays and the blockers who opened the holes for me.”
Rader, whose team was ranked 23rd, viewed the victory as a major step upward.
“We beat a good team, and we did it on national TV,” Rader said. “This is a big boost for our program.”
Said Aztec Coach Al Luginbill: “We made some mistakes that were uncharacteristic for us. Obviously, I did a horrible job.”
The Aztecs wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard. They kicked off, forced a Tulsa punt and then drove 86 yards in 15 plays, consuming 6:21 in the process.
Lowrey got things started with a 15-yard pass to Judd Rachow. Faulk made runs of 17 and 15 yards and Lowrey passed to Larry Maxey for 12 and to Will Tate for 17. That carried to the Tulsa 14, and Faulk did the rest with runs of eight, four and two yards.
At that point, the Aztecs employed a strange bit of strategy, an onside kick. The Aztecs’ Kip Jeffries recovered, but because the ball didn’t travel the required 10 yards, Tulsa took over on the Aztecs’ 46. Six plays later, five of them runs by Jackson, the score was tied.
Darnay Scott returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the Aztec 46. The Aztecs then moved to the Tulsa one, only to see Wayne Pittman fumble into the end zone when hit by Stephen Ford and Chris Bratcher. Dennis Hickey of Tulsa recovered for a touchback.
After an exchange of punts, Tulsa went 80 yards for a touchdown. Jackson carried on eight of the 12 plays, once for 13 yards, and ran around right end for the last six.
Lowery scored on a four-yard quarterback draw with 1:06 remaining to tie the score.
After the Aztecs punted on the first possession of the second half, Tulsa came within two yards of regaining the lead, only to have flanker Marlo Fair fumble the ball away after Jackson had put it on the two with a 13-yard run.
Gary Taylor’s recovery got the Aztecs out of trouble, but they couldn’t go anywhere and punted.
Jackson scored in 10 plays on a three-yard run.
The Aztecs came back with a 65-yard drive but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Trakas.