Tulsa football experienced another dip in their roller coaster of a season as they suffered their sixth defeat in their first ever clash with Connecticut on Saturday, stumbling to 2-6 on the year and 1-3 in American Conference play.
The vast majority of the game in East Hartford was a miserable affair, with a very bland 3-0 halftime score and a combined total of 11 punts from both teams through the first three quarters. The TU secondary was nowhere to be found as UConn QB Bryant Shirreffs had a career game with 372 passing yards, a 79% completion rate, and one impressive touchdown (an 80-yard rainbow pass to receiver Hergy Mayala).
Also absent from this week’s game was the Tulsa offensive line, which allowed a mediocre defense to sack TU QB Luke Skipper six times and commit eleven tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Shirreffs’ accuracy and TU’s inconsistency on both sides of the ball translated to a 20-0 Connecticut lead midway through the 4th quarter before Tulsa finally answered. RB Shamari Brooks led the way with 164 yards and a determination seldom seen in a true freshman, scoring both TU touchdowns to cut the Huskies’ lead to six with two minutes remaining.
TU actually had a chance to win the game after yet another UConn punt with less than a minute to go, but a potential touchdown pass to Keenen Johnson on the very last play was broken up in the end zone.
It is astonishing how this team finds so many different ways to lose. The plethora of problems this season have doomed Tulsa fans to a year of hair-pulling exasperation and head-hanging disappointment. When the rushing defense finally puts forth a solid effort, only allowing 69 yards with 1.6 average yards per carry, the secondary gives Connecticut free reign downfield. When it seems Skipper has finally found his mojo, the rushing game suffers a setback with powerhouse back D’Angelo Brewer on the bench for undisclosed reasons, leaving Brooks to plow ahead alone.
Of course, that specific example is not the fault of anyone in particular, but it does add one more item to the ever-growing list of frustrations. Apart from the honest miracle that was the Homecoming victory, there hasn’t been a single game in which both the offense and the defense have been effective across the board. That is a clear formula for failure and is an issue that has to become priority number one in terms of what needs to be fixed.
Of all the games left this season, this was the one Tulsa was supposed to win; likewise, it was a game Tulsa could not afford to lose if they had any hope of postseason play. It does not bode well for the remainder of the schedule and fills this reporter with dread at the prospect of writing up four more losses.
Looking ahead to next week’s game in Dallas against SMU, this team must search for something to fight for. Fight for pride. Fight to avenge a disappointing first eight games. Fight to end this season on some higher notes and get over the sting of losses to teams like New Mexico and UConn. Fight to improve as players. Fight to work together and avoid minute mistakes. If no one steps up and resolves to restore consistency, the issues which have plagued the 2017 Golden Hurricane could also infect next year’s squad. And that would be the biggest heartbreak yet.