Sports writer Nathan Fahland gives a rundown of the opening game of the season.
With no more restrictions involved in attending home sporting events, along with the increase of students on campus, Thursday night had the potential to be a momentous game for the University of Tulsa. It had the possibility to set the tone for a new season after losing consecutive games to end the 2019 campaign. The only thing standing in between the team and a 1-0 record was the football team from the University of California at Davis. While the UC Davis Aggies play in Division 1, they are an FBC athletic program, meaning they play in a lower conference than the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa was a heavy favorite entering Thursday night, with high hopes riding on an experienced offensive line, a young quarterback and a formidable defense.
While the Aggies scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game, Tulsa’s defense settled down and began suffocating their opponents. The Tulsa defense gave up only 88 rushing yards, which is 136 yards fewer than the 226 rushing yards per game that the Aggies averaged last year. While the Aggie’s running game was stifled, their passing game showed much improvement from last year. They constantly threw underneath Tulsa’s defense, finding most of their yardage in the intermediate part of the field. Their experienced offensive line led the way to rushing for 247 yards throughout the night. Second year running back Deneric Prince rushed for 151 yards, while Shamari Brooks ran for 80 yards.
Although their rushing offense was very productive and scored the only touchdown for TU, the passing aspect of the offense struggled. With a completion percentage just over 50, Davis Brin threw for just 202 yards with a QBR of 99.6. While Tulsa outgained UC Davis 477 to 399 in total yards of offense, the main problems that led to a 2 point loss were Tulsa’s untimely turnovers, penalties and lack of execution on third downs. Tulsa had three total turnovers, two of which came when the offense was within 15 yards of the end zone. An interception on third down and a fumble after catching a pass for a first down resulted in zero points from those two trips into the red zone. In a close game where Tulsa lost by only two points, either chance to score could have put the Golden Hurricanes on top.
A common idea among football teams is that third down is a very important one. Some people deem it as the ‘money down’ because of its importance. While UC Davis converted 10 out of their 19 third downs for a conversion rate of 53%, Tulsa had a conversion rate of only 20%, successfully converting two of their 10 third downs. Lastly, a final deciding factor in the Golden Hurricane’s loss was the multiple penalties committed. These penalties allowed the Aggies to lengthen several drives. It also took away several big plays from Tulsa’s offense. A rush that should have resulted in a 40+ yard gain was heavily reduced because of a block in the back penalty that had no impact on the play. Overall, the penalties, turnovers and third down ineffectiveness is what led to Tulsa losing 19-17 against an FCS football team. However, the closeness of the final score suggests that the Hurricanes still have the prospect of a very successful season in the upcoming weeks.