EAST LANSING, Michigan — The start of the Zach Smith era at quarterback was a rough one for the University of Tulsa. Smith, the transfer from Baylor, led an offense that was held to a school record low -73 yards rushing, turned the ball over three times and allowed a defensive touchdown and a safety. The Hurricane's offensive woes overshadowed a consistently strong effort by the TU defense, as No. 18 Michigan State cruised to a 28-7 victory in the season opener for both teams.
Smith, a transfer from Baylor, started over Seth Boomer, the starter at the end of the 2018 season. He was 16-of-27 passing for 153 yards. But TU running backs combined for 13 carries for minus-1 yards. And sacks and a couple of bad snaps pushed the Hurricane offense to snap a rushing record set in 2003 against Georgia Tech (-56 yards).
Hurricane held to minus-73 yards rushing, lowest offensive output since 1987 in 28-7 loss to Spartans
Michigan State 28, TU 7: Defense strong, but offense futile as Hurricane drops season opener
First down ¦ Story of the game
Defense up to the task, but that's not enough The University of Tulsa defense kept the score as respectable as it could. The Hurricane held Michigan State to a field goal the three times the Spartans started a drive inside TU territory. Michigan State made it into the end zone only once on the first drive of the game.
Second down ¦ Matchup that mattered
Spartans dominate TU running back TU’s running backs going up against Michigan State’s run defense was the most talked about matchup leading up to Friday night’s contest. The Spartans won the battle, sending the Hurricane backward nearly every time TU ran the ball. TU ended the game with a program-worst negative-73 rushing yards, averaging negative-2.9 yards a carry.
Third down ¦ Game MVP
Johnson leads determined TU defense Senior safety Brandon Johnson was everywhere Friday night for TU. Johnson totaled nine tackles, eight of which were solo. After transferring from Tyler Junior College last year, Johnson tallied nine tackles all of last season while playing in every game and starting in one. He also added a pass breakup in the game.
Fourth down ¦ What’s next
TU heads West The Hurricane has another long road trip next week when it heads to California to play San Jose State. TU is 4-3 all-time against the Spartans, winning the last meeting in 2016, 45-10.
Tulsa at No. 18 Michigan State notebook: Transfer Josh Johnson granted immediate eligibility by NCAA
TU vs. Michigan State final stats
Follow the action on Twitter
TULSA AT NO. 18 MICHIGAN STATE 6 p.m. Friday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan TV: FS1 Radio: KXBL-99.5 Records (last season): Tulsa 3-9; Michigan State 7-6 All-time series: First meeting
James Aydelotte's forecast: Clear skies and temperatures in the lower 70s at kickoff.
First down | Top storyline
TU starts with most difficult task The University of Tulsa is starting its season with maybe the most difficult game on its schedule. The Hurricane travel to East Lansing, Michigan, for a prime-time road contest against No. 18 Michigan State at Spartan Stadium, which holds over 75,000 fans — more than twice the capacity of H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Second down | Key matchup
TU's running backs vs. Michigan State's run defense TU has two running backs on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's best running back. Although Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II make the run game TU's strength on offense, Michigan State was the best in the country last season at stopping the run, giving up only 77.9 rushing yards a game.
Third down | Player to watch
QB Zach Smith or Seth Boomer Zach Smith will most likely start at quarterback Friday night, but after a position battle the entire offseason, all eyes will be on whoever takes that first snap for TU. Michigan State's stellar run defense will most likely halt TU's run game, so the passing game — and whoever is controlling it — will have to step up if TU wants to pull off an upset.
Fourth down | Who wins and why?
A dominating Spartan defense
From Bill Haisten: TU and Michigan State are alike in that each team is much better defensively than offensively. The Michigan State defense might be the program’s best since 1966, when a great Spartan squad nearly won the national title. Last season, Michigan State by far was the national leader in rush yards allowed — and now the 2019 Spartan defense is expected to be even better? It’s a terrible opening-night draw for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa has backfield talent, but the Spartan defensive line is on the Alabama-Clemson level of strength. Without a strong run game, the Hurricane won’t be able to muster the offense required to score an upset in East Lansing. The Spartans win it 30-14.
Upset of Spartans could spark 'magical-type season' for Hurricane
Catching up with this week's TU coverage
The Tulsa World’s annual Outpick the Picker contest is back in 2019. Here are the specifics:
For now, Zach Smith will be known as 'the transfer from Baylor'
Almost a year after monumental NCAA changes ushered in the transfer portal era of college football, coaches and players have differing opinion…
TU coach Philip Montgomery on season opener against Michigan State