The Golden Hurricane suffered a defeat of titanic proportions against Tulane on Saturday, losing 62-28 and dropping to an abysmal 1-5 on the season.
In a game overflowing with mistakes and mediocrity, it is hard for this reporter to choose which atrocity to summarize first. One glaring reality facing this football team is that its defense is outrageously ineffective.
To give up over 653 total yards (488 in rushing yards) to Tulane should be considered unacceptable. And yet this has been the storyline of the 2017 season: opponents Oklahoma State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Toledo and Navy have all posted over 500 total yard gains over this defense. We rank dead last in the American Athletic Conference in sacks and number of passes defended and have only recorded four interceptions for the season. But by far the most damning statistic is that Tulsa’s rush defense ranks last in the entire country in almost every category: yards allowed per rush (6.78), rushing yards allowed per game (347.8) and total rushing yards allowed this season (a staggering 2,087).
Watching the defense getting bowled over on Saturday was an experience akin to watching a helium balloon deflate at a birthday party no one attended. The linebackers looked winded by the end of the first quarter, and the tackling was awful. Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard’s stellar performance was proof positive of this, with four touchdowns and several 20+ yard plays.
Despite this, the real tragic outcome of the game in New Orleans was the collapse of Coach Montgomery’s offensive scheme, which in the past five games had been at least productive, if not consistent. After going 2 for 6 and throwing an interception, starting QB Chad President was replaced in the first quarter with freshman Luke Skipper, who had a decent game overall (256 yards and
a touchdown). However, this begs the question: if Coach Montgomery wants a balanced offense, why did it take six games for this change to occur?
President has been struggling with passing for the past several weeks (against New Mexico in particular). If Montgomery wants a strategy, why not try doing what we’re good at? Run the ball! For all his faults, President knows how to move his feet, with 365 rushing yards and fi touchdowns this season. Skipper seems to be the better passing threat, but with juggernaut D’Angelo Brewer in the backfield, why is President being punished for his mediocre passing skills? He has spent two years training under Montgomery to take the reins. If a balanced attack is what the coaching staff is striving for, they should have corrected President’s accuracy much sooner. Otherwise, this offense should have been built around the strength of its run game in the first place. Now that the plug has been pulled on President, it feels as if Tulsa has wasted the past six games using an offensive scheme that the coaching staff never fully implemented.
For the student fanbase, the 2017 season has been a colossal disappointment. An offense that produces so many yards and yet cannot put up more than 13 points against New Mexico. A defense that gives up 653 yards against a team it was favored to beat. A coach who has lost faith in his quarterback. The upcoming schedule is no cakewalk either. It’s too much to ask for a bowl game at this point, but even after all of this, all hope is not lost. If the defense plugs up some of its iceberg-sized holes, and if the offense can finally decide what kind of threat it wants to be, this team could win a few games and attract some recruits with the promise of improvement. But there needs to be some sincere introspection for that to happen.