In the state of Oklahoma, the rules of the football fandom are pretty simple: if you graduated from Oklahoma State University or like to party in Stillwater, you’re an Oklahoma State fan. If you lived in Tulsa or graduated from the University of Tulsa, you’re a Golden Hurricane fan.
If you’re one of the 3.5 million other people in the state, you will root for the University of Oklahoma more often than not. The state didn’t have a professional sports team until the Thunder came to town, so the Sooners were its de facto pro sports team.
Because of Oklahoma State’s utter domination of football in the state, Tulsa has historically struggled to recruit there. Some coaches have had sporadic success at Tulsa, but until the 2000s, they were very average. From 1950 to 2002, Tulsa had 12 different head coaches, and only three of whom finished their career with winning records there.
That’s what has made Tulsa’s relatively recent successes so surprising. Steve Kragthorpe was hired in 2003 to turn around the program, and Tulsa has been one of the more consistently good mid-major teams since then.
Tulsa has made a bowl in 10 out of 14 seasons since Kragthorpe took over, but making one in 2017 might be a struggle. The Golden Hurricane are 2-5 in 2017, with tough games against top AAC teams like Memphis, USF and SMU left on the schedule.
In the past few years, head coach Phil Montgomery has had great success running the ball a ton out of the spread offense, and this year’s team is no different in that regard. They average 272 yards rushing for the year and are top-20 in the nation in rushing efficiency.
Tulsa’s backfield of quarterback Chad President and running backs D’Angelo Brewer and Shamari Brooks have, arguably, been the deepest running backfield in the country.
All three of them average over five yards per carry, and Tulsa has had at least one 100-yard rusher in every game so far this season, so it’s safe to say the running game isn’t the reason for their underachievement in 2017.
The real problem lies pretty much everywhere else on the field. Tulsa’s passing game has been nonexistent thus far this season. President is an excellent rusher, but he has been an aggressively average passer. He completes a respectable 56 percent of his passes, but Tulsa is near the bottom of the league in passing efficiency and is a middling 54th in yards per passing attempt.
Tulsa’s biggest weakness, by far, is their defense. The Golden Hurricane are in the basement of nation in pretty much every defensive category you can think of, from points given up per play (115th in the nation) to opponent rushing success rate (128th) to opponent passer rating (125th).
The good news for Tulsa is that their defense seemed to come around in their last game against Houston, holding them to only 17 points and 4.6 yards per play. Defensive end Jeremy Smith had his best game of the year against Houston, tallying three tackles for loss and two sacks.
UConn’s offense has been on fire as of late, so they present a surprisingly big test for Tulsa’s defense as they attempt to get their season back on track after early struggles.
Luke Swanson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.