Tulsa winning with old-school run game, defense
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 4:34 AM
In its second season with Bill Blankenship as the head football coach, the University of Tulsa achieved the Conference USA West Division title because of its old-school abilities to run the football and play defense.
In 2011, the Golden Hurricane allowed 415 yards per game and ranked eighth in Conference USA in total defense. This season, TU has given up 54 fewer yards per game and ranks No. 2 in total defense.
In 2011, Tulsa averaged 192 rushing yards per game while totaling 20 rushing touchdowns. This season: 241 yards per game and 33 rushing TDs. The result: In advance of Saturday's 11 a.m. regular-season finale at SMU, the Hurricane has records of 9-2 overall and 7-0 in C-USA.
There are 58 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that average at least 240 passing yards a game. In Conference USA, there are six such teams.
However, there are only 13 teams nationally that average at least 240 rushing yards. Tulsa is the only C-USA squad in that group.
"I think that playing defense and being tough never goes out of style," Blankenship said. "If you can play defense and be physically tough, you can play for championships.
"If I could design it, I'd like to be a little more explosive and open with what we do (offensively). But when you can play defense, it allows you to take care of the football and take less chances."
Taking chances can lead to turnovers, and Tulsa also has improved in that regard. Last season, the Hurricane was minus-5 on turnovers. TU's current standing - plus-5.
While TU has secured a berth in the Dec. 1 Conference USA championship game (probably at H.A. Chapman Stadium and probably a rematch with the University of Central Florida), SMU is in a sudden-death situation.
At 5-6 overall, the Mustangs must defeat Tulsa in order to get their sixth victory and become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season.
SMU has a losing record in spite of ranking No. 2 in the conference in rushing defense, and in spite of having the league's best turnover margin at plus-9.
"I think their record is very misleading at 5-6," Blankenship said. "If you look at the stats, most of the stats that you equate to winning are in their (favor).
"I think it's a very talented team. I'd hate for them to put it all together this week."
In Conference USA, there are five teams - East Carolina, Houston, SMU, UAB and Tulane - that average fewer than 37 rushing attempts per game. Tulane averages only 24.
Tulsa averages 47 rush attempts per game. Through 11 games, TU already has more rush attempts (522) than it totaled in 13 games last season (521).
"We like playing in tough games," said Hurricane tailback Trey Watts, who rushed for 122 yards in last week's 23-21 victory over UCF. "We won't back down from any challenge that we will face.
"We have so many guys who are like, if we (face) a UCF or a Kansas City Chiefs NFL team, just bring them on."
From its three primary tailbacks - Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton - TU has gotten 2,220 rushing yards. They are on pace to finish the Hurricane's 14-game season with 2,825 yards.
"They're all awesome," TU guard Jake Alexander said. "Not many teams have three guys of that caliber. If you can run the ball, you can win games. That's how we win games."
TU up next
At SMU 11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: TU winning old-school way
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397