John Klein: Tulsa's old-fashioned new style is working
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, October 12, 2012
10/12/12 at 6:34 AM
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AT SOME POINT, Tulsa pretty much decided to abandon passing, the offensive form that first brought fame to Golden Hurricane football in the 1960s.
TU, a collegiate pioneer in passing, had to go back to the most basic football against UTEP on Thursday night at Chapman Stadium.
Tulsa went to a power running game, with the occasional pass just for show, then relied on defense in a 33-11 victory over UTEP.
"It's working," said Tulsa running back Alex Singleton. "That's all that matters."
The Miners cooperated with an offense that went 10 straight quarters without an offensive touchdown until connecting on a long pass in the fourth quarter against TU.
With little threat from UTEP's offense, Tulsa was very conservative and pounded its way to the victory with simple handoffs.
"Our guys are getting a lot of push up front," said Singleton. "Our backs are making it happen."
So far, so good. It was Tulsa's sixth straight victory. TU remains on top of the Conference USA West Division standings at 4-0 and will be heavily favored in an Oct. 20 home game with lowly Rice.
However, the way Tulsa is playing, especially in the passing game, there is no such thing as an easy game.
"We just kept fighting," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship.
This was a struggle until UTEP imploded, allowing Tulsa to run away late in the third quarter on a long run and a fumble returned for a TD. In about seven minutes Tulsa's lead ballooned from 13-3 to 26-3.
Tulsa ran on 54 of 77 plays. TU completed just 13 passes. Of TU's 198 passing yards, 74 came on two plays.
This was about Tulsa running the ball and controlling the clock.
"We're finding an identity," said Blankenship. "It is not always pretty but it is effective."
However, Tulsa's lack of diversity on offense could become a serious problem when the level of opponents steps up in November (Arkansas, SMU, UCF and Houston).
Right now, Tulsa is winning because it can line up and push its way to first downs and touchdowns. That may not be the case when TU goes to Arkansas.
"We're going to keep working on it (passing)," said Blankenship.
Still, it has been a winning formula in recent weeks as Tulsa keeps winning with a simple approach. Run the football. Play some defense.
"We did not get too fancy," said Blankenship.
Tulsa's offense remains pretty much stuck in an old-fashioned power running game because passing has become a serious issue for the Golden Hurricane.
"Cody (Green) missed a few and we dropped a few," said Blankenship.
Luckily, TU's offensive line is good and the Hurricane have a handful of very capable running backs.
As a result, Tulsa is winning games with a tough, determined and physical style.
It is running up the middle, pushing its way to yards and time of possession.
Evidence of Tulsa's new style was sandwiched around halftime.
Just before halftime, TU went on a 19-play drive (76 yards) that included just 8 yards through the air. That drive resulted in a short field goal for a 6-3 halftime lead.
Then, to open the second half, Tulsa went on a 14-play drive (75 yards) capped with a 1-yard TD dive from Singleton.
Those two drives totaled 33 plays, 151 yards and just 28 yards in passing. Tulsa held the ball nearly 14 minutes on those two drives.
On the TD drive, to get a 13-3 lead, Tulsa ran on eight of the last nine plays of the drive.
Tulsa followed with the clincher, an 81-yard touchdown run by Ja'Terian Douglas on a simple sweep. That made it 19-3 and the game was pretty much over at that point.
Just moments later, Shawn Jackson picked up a fumble and ran 17 yards for a TD and a 26-3 lead late in the third quarter.
"We got to a point where we needed to create something on defense," said DeAundre Brown. "And, we answered."
As conservative as Tulsa became on offense, UTEP's offensive challenges are worse.
The Miners had nine snaps inside the Tulsa 5 and got one field goal through the first three quarters.
TU's Alex Singleton picks up yardage during the first half of the UTEP v Tulsa football game a Chapman Stadium at the University of Tulsa. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World