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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Football

Tulsa offense stuck in transition phase, defense lacks leadership


The Cougars are rolling this week after a 35-22 victory over the SMU Mustangs. They are now set to face the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes who are limping into the weekend with a 1-5 record. | Courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

The Cougars remain on the hunt for the American Athletic Conference championship after defeating the high-powered SMU Mustangs 35-22 Saturday. The Cougar offense came through by scoring five touchdowns, while the defense held the Mustangs to a season-low 22 points.

Next up is a trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to take on the struggling Golden Hurricane squad. Tulsa has mustered only one win over the season’s six games. The team’s losses include this week’s blowout defeat by Tulane.

The defeat led to a switch at the quarterback position for Tulsa. Here is a look at the struggling team from Oklahoma that is set to face the Cougars at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Competition between young QB’s

Last season, the Tulsa offense had a prototypical passing quarterback in Dane Evans. The senior placed 13th among Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks in passing scores per game, while completing 59 percent of his passes for an average of 257 yards a game.

Chad President took over the quarterback position this season after Evans graduated last year. The 6-foot-2-inch quarterback is a considerable paradigm shift for the Golden Hurricane, as he does most of the damage with his feet.

Even though President has underperformed — throwing 800 yards and two touchdowns through the air — he has already rushed for five scores and is ranked third among quarterbacks with 7.6 yards per carry.

After he threw one interception in just six passes Saturday, Tulsa summoned freshman backup quarterback Luke Skipper. Despite fumbling the ball twice, the Forney native completed 10 out of 14 passes for one touchdown and added another score on the ground.

he Houston defense will need to pay more attention in the secondary if the Golden Hurricane continues with Skipper.

Senior RB dominating offensive snaps

Regardless of who starts at QB, one thing will remain constant for the Tulsa offense: senior running back D’Angelo Brewer, the primary offensive weapon.

Having to share snaps with outstanding senior James Flanders last season (500 carries for over 3,000 yards and 25 TD’s among the two), the Tulsa native emerges as one of nation’s most prolific rushers in 2017.

Brewer ranks in the top 20 among FBS running backs with 24 carries and 114 yards per contest, while averaging one score a game.

The second fiddle in the Golden Hurricane backfield is Shamari Brooks. In spite of considerably fewer rushing attempts (64 to Brewer’s 143), the 5-foot-8-inch freshman is more efficient with 6.1 yards per carry and has as many touchdowns as Brewer (6). This lands him into the top 50 among running backs.

Role of receivers reduced compared to 2016

Alongside pocket-passing quarterback Dane Evans, Tulane has also lost explosive wide receivers Keevan Lucas and Joshua Atkinson. The duo finished last season with 159 catches for over 2,200 receiving yards and 23 scores, constituting 65 percent of the team’s passing output. Moreover, Lucas finished among the nation’s 10 best receivers with 15 touchdowns for the year.

This year, the torch has been passed to junior Justin Hobbs and sophomore Keenen Johnson, who took up the roles of leading receivers after being in the seniors’ shadow last season.

The two have combined for 56 catches and 780 yards so far, with the only two touchdown receptions coming from Hobbs. Despite the run-heavy offense, Hobbs still manages to gain 75 yards a game, while Johnson reels in more than five catches per contest.

No clear leaders on defense

The Tulsa defense is easily one of the worst units across the entire nation.

There are not many consistent performers in the front line or in the secondary, which leads to a clear lack of leadership on this side of the ball.

Among team leaders in tackles, freshman safety Manny Bunch and junior safety McKinley Whitfield have accounted for 86 total tackles. Bunch also managed to come down with one interception, while Whitfield obtained a team-high three tackles for loss.

The only notable pass rusher on the Golden Hurricane defensive front is Jeremy Smith, who has garnered three sacks and three tackles for loss.

As far as turnovers are concerned, Craig Suits is the biggest playmaker on defense. The 6-foot senior has already forced a fumble and grabbed two interceptions this year, including one pick-six.

The Tulsa secondary returns with Reginald Robinson II, its most impressive player from 2016. After producing a team-high seven pass breakups last season, the sophomore already has three defended passes to his name in 2017.

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