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Friday, January 19, 2018

Football

Golden Hurricane taper off after productive 2016


Golden

The Golden Hurricanes have had a long season so far. After a 10-3 season last year they now face a losing season if they cant fix things quickly. | File photo/The Cougar

The Golden Hurricane ravaged through the league last year to finish with a 10-3 record, winning all of their home games.

Having lost most of the main protagonists from that team, Tulsa is off to a rough 1-5 start in its 2017 campaign. Nevertheless, the Cougars will have to do a good amount of homework to come away with a coveted win on the road.

Weakened offense, but some features remain

Last year, the Tulsa offense ranked in the top 5 in plays, yards and first downs and placed among 10 best teams in points and scores per game. Although not the most efficient unit, which manifested in low ratio of first downs to punts and turnovers, the offense overwhelmed opponents with its tempo and number of plays.

The Golden Hurricane possessed a run-heavy offense, placing in the nation’s top 15 with 51 rushing plays, 262 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. Nevertheless, they were also more than capable of hurting the opposition through the air and ranked among the best 20 teams in passing scores.

Devoid of last year’s biggest weapons at the wide receiver and quarterback, Tulsa’s passing game has crumbled toward the very bottom of the league in all categories. The sole exception is the team’s low interception count, which stems from the low volume of passing plays.

But the tendency may change if freshman Luke Skipper takes over for sophomore Chad President at quarterback due to the former being a more consistent passer.

Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane’s up-tempo offense is still averaging over 70 snaps a game, keeping opponents on their heels by rushing the ball. In particular, Tulsa ranks among Football Bowl Subdivision’s top 10 teams with 50 rushing plays, 270 yards and 3.7 TD’s per contest.

Defense is among the worst in the nation

Tulsa was below average last year in most defensive categories, ranking outside the top 100 in efficiency and penalties. Opposing quarterbacks kept throwing the ball against its secondary, which could not generate turnovers, allowing 53.4 percent completions and 1.2 passing touchdowns.

No matter how bad the Golden Hurricane defense was in 2016, this year’s rendition pales in comparison. Tulsa’s defense places among the worst five teams in NCAA with 44 points, 588 yards and nearly six scores allowed per game in 2017, including its dead-last ranking with 8.17 yards given up per play.

Tulsa’s secondary allows an NCAA-worst 11.6 yards per passing play and 68.5 completion percentage. Despite facing just 20 passes per contest, the Golden Hurricane ranks 109th with two passing scores allowed per game.

Meanwhile, the defensive front faces the second-highest volume of running plays in the FBS (51) and gives up 350 yards for nearly four TD’s per contest, both categories placing them in the nation’s bottom two teams. Moreover, the 6.8 yards allowed per rush by Tulsa is the worst in NCAA.

Coming off a stellar season
While having lost almost all the main offensive protagonists from last year’s team, we may still be interested in some of their most peculiar results from that year.

The Golden Hurricane were able to come away with a win against all below-average offenses, including road wins at Fresno State and a top-40 defense of UCF. Meanwhile, all three losses came on the road against top-50 offenses and respectable defenses, including the top 10 rushing defenses of Navy and Ohio State

The common theme in most of the surprising scorelines from Tulsa’s 2016 season were turnovers and penalties. For example, they challenged the top-20 Cougar defense and dismantled the eight-win Memphis team on the road. On the other hand, the Golden Hurricane themselves needed overtime to overcome a weak four-win Cincinnati squad at home after losing the turnover battle 0-3.

Underwhelming start to 2017

This year, Tulsa is off to a terrible start with just one win over six games, and even that one came against the bottom-dwelling defense of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns allow 46 points, 500-plus yards and nearly six scores to their opponents on a per-game basis, which safely places them among the nation’s five worst defenses.

Against the run-dominant offenses of Navy, New Mexico and Tulane, the Golden Hurricane lost all three encounters, including two home defeats. Both Navy and New Mexico ended up losing the turnover battle when playing Tulsa in Oklahoma but still managed to consistently keep the Hurricane offense on the sidelines by efficiently rushing the ball.

Now, with a potential change at the signal-caller position, the Golden Hurricane will present a bigger threat in the passing game, on top of having D’Angelo Brewer as the prime playmaker in the backfield. The Houston defense should prioritize containing the senior running back, while the Cougars’ offense will have to play a clean efficient game as to limit the possession time for Tulsa’s offense.

Kickoff between the Tulsa and UH is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday in Oklahoma.

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