Tulsa looked like a high school team on Friday night as it was once again blown out at home 41-14.
In what has become a depressingly familiar pattern, the Golden Hurricane suffered from poor defensive effort, inconsistent play calling and an eye-widening 103 penalty yards on their way to a palindromic 41-14 loss against 23rd ranked Memphis in front of a dismayed home crowd on a chilly Friday night. This defeat was the third straight for Tulsa and the eighth loss of this neverending nightmare of a season only one year removed from a 10-3 record and a Miami Beach Bowl victory.
The game started off with promise, with TU matching the Tigers blow-for-blow into the second quarter, with touchdown runs on back-to-back drives from quarterbacks Luke Skipper and Chad President to tie the game at 14 points apiece. Unfortunately, President’s score would be the last time Tulsa would find the end zone for the remainder of the contest.
Memphis’ Anthony Miller answered a couple possessions later with a floater into the corner of the end zone in front of the TU student section from Tigers QB Riley Ferguson (who padded his stat sheet with four touchdowns and 298 passing yards on the day) to put the Golden Hurricane down by seven points. Near the end of the first half, Tulsa had the ball with over a minute remaining with all three timeouts to give. With a chance to make an aggressive push to attempt to tie the game again before halftime, head coach Philip Montgomery instead elected to run the clock out and head into the locker rooms down by a touchdown.
Memphis received the ball to start the third quarter and began the beatdown in earnest, out-gaining Tulsa in second half yards 278 to 59 and scoring 20 unanswered points on several additional long marches downfield. The Golden Hurricane defense was unable to stop the offensive deluge and the offense was unable to gain traction against the Tigers defense, which recorded three sacks and an interception with seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
TU running back D’Angelo Brewer put in another reliable performance, surpassing the 1,000 rushing yard threshold for the second straight season. However, Tulsa’s rushing game this season will be permanently disadvantaged after receiving word that running back Shamari Brooks is out for the remainder of the year with a broken collarbone, an injury he received last week in Dallas against SMU.
This loss against a clearly superior team isn’t a very surprising one. No, what is most vexing about this week’s loss is the lack of originality and puttering attitude of resignation the 2017 campaign has adopted. For what it’s worth, it appears that Coach Montgomery agrees. “Tough game,” he told the press. “I thought we played a pretty good first half. Got to be more consistent… I’ve got to do a better job coaching, and we’ve got to come out and do a better job in the second half.” Perhaps Coach Montgomery has been reading this reporter’s articles after all.
Tulsa has a handful of very good, arguably great offensive weapons in QBs Skipper and President, RBs Brewer and Brooks and WRs Justin Hobbs and Keenen Johnson. Why, then, has its efficiency only worsened as the season progresses? The answer is simple: opposing defenses have studied up on the offense and know what to expect. The worst thing a football team can become is predictable. If Coach Montgomery wants to improve his coaching, he can decide to take a gamble with a minute to go in the second quarter and call a play-action pass on first down. He can give his man under center more opportunities to create positive yards and develop a subset of option plays around him and the halfback. (It works for Navy, why not Tulsa?) He can create an offense that adapts to its own strengths and fights predictability.
The Golden Hurricane travel to Tampa this week to play the South Florida Bulls. It will be a harrowing matchup; USF has one of the most prolific offenses in the American Conference, and their defense has forced 20 turnovers this season. Hopefully, Tulsa can make a good showing and make it through the 2017 gauntlet with their heads held high.