Philip Montgomery takes his University of Tulsa football team to San Jose State for an 8 p.m. Saturday game. The Hurricane will attempt to avoid its first 0-2 start since 2005. AL GOLDIS/AP

Of 130 teams playing at the FBS level, only four open the 2019 season with two road games: Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, New Mexico State and the University of Tulsa.

The Golden Hurricane schedule is beyond unreasonable. It’s cruel.

After playing last week at Michigan State (a two-hour drive from the Canadian border), TU jets to San Jose State (a one-hour drive from the Pacific Ocean).

Next week, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace visit TU’s H.A. Chapman Stadium.

In Saturday’s clash of Tulsa and San Jose State programs that formerly were together in the WAC, the Hurricane will attempt to avoid what would be the program’s first 0-2 start since 2005. San Jose State will strive to become 2-0 for the first time in 32 years.

Nationally, TU-San Jose State resonates only with people who bet on football games.

For Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery, however, this weekend is important.

In its past 25 games, the Hurricane is 5-20. It’s the program’s worst 25-game record since a 2-23 stretch in 2001-03.

Optimists have predicted a six-win regular season and bowl trip for the 2019 Golden Hurricane, but they all agree that a six-win run absolutely must include a victory at San Jose State.

As Montgomery attempts to fix the TU offense, he bears must-win pressure — and this is a should-win game. Tulsa is favored by six points.

Bill Blankenship was TU’s head football coach for 51 games. At the end of a 2-10 season in 2014, TU athletic director Derrick Gragg fired Blankenship. Ten days later, Montgomery was hired.

Last week’s offensive debacle at Michigan State was Montgomery’s 51st game at TU. At the end of the 28-7 loss, the TU damage report included 80 total yards, program-record futility in the run game (minus-73 yards) and three turnovers.

Competing during his first three seasons against Conference USA opposition, Blankenship’s 51-game record was 24-27.

Having coached in the more challenging American Athletic Conference, Montgomery’s 51-game record is 21-30.

Fifty percent of Montgomery’s program — the defensive side — is healthy.

The offensive side was poor in 2017 and 2018. It was beyond poor at Michigan State, but that Spartans defense is the best that TU will encounter this season. Michigan State’s front-seven personnel might have been the best that TU has faced since the Hurricane was shut out by the 1987 Oklahoma Sooners.

The pressure on Montgomery isn’t about his job status. His contract extends through the 2021 season. Gragg and university President Gerard Clancy really seem to like their football coach.

Even if Tulsa has another 2-10 type of result, it’s highly likely that Montgomery would be retained for a sixth season in 2020.

If there is a most consistent criticism of Montgomery, it’s this: “Philip should have signed Mason Fine.”

Anyone who knows Montgomery considers him a good man and a great representative of the university.

Blankenship also is a good man and a former TU quarterback. Before he was fired after four seasons, he was perfect in his role as a face of the university.

In coaching, however, the standards of success are the same for good people and bad people.

As the overseer of Tulsa’s offense, Montgomery has the additional responsibility of repairing a broken passing game.

Game 51 was hard to watch. If Montgomery is destined to pull TU from this slump, the first step must be taken in Game 52 at San Jose State.

Bill Haisten




Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397