Chris Ivy Jr. remembers trembling a little bit the first time he stepped on a college football field as a redshirt freshman in 2016. Over three years and 14 starts later, he’s the leader of a young University of Tulsa offensive line as a redshirt senior.
Ivy’s 14 career starts match the total of the rest of last week’s starting offensive line combined. Most of the others’ starts come from left guard Chris Paul, who has 10 starts under his belt.
“Just over the years, learning everything I’ve learned, being a young guy, and now I’m in that role where I’m having to teach, I’m having to lead,” Ivy said. “It’s been fun. Guys have been stepping up. This group of guys we got, we got something special.”
In the Hurricane’s season-opening game against Michigan State, TU posted a program-worst negative-73 rushing yards, averaging 1.5 yards a play. The Spartans also sacked quarterback Zach Smith six times in his TU debut.
Saturday, although against lesser competition, the Hurricane looked better on offense, beating San Jose State 34-16 for TU’s first win of the season. The offensive line paved the way for 256 rushing yards, even with running back Corey Taylor II leaving the game in the first half with an injury. San Jose State also never sacked Smith.
“Coach (Philip Montgomery) talked about how the biggest improvement you’ll see on a football team is between Week 1 and Week 2,” Ivy said. “And I think last week we definitely answered the challenge that was being put on us to come out there and perform better after a bad first game.”
Montgomery made changes to the line from Week 1 to Week 2, replacing two starters from the loss to Michigan State. Sophomore Dante Bivens made his first career start at right guard against San Jose State. Junior Tiller Bucktrot started there Week 1. Sophomore Gerard Wheeler also made his first start at center after replacing Dylan Couch during the first game after some bad snaps.
“We had a couple new guys that started off the game the other night, and so it’s about finding the right combination of those guys and them continuing to grow together in what they have to do,” Montgomery said. “…And you know there’s a lot of factors that kind of went into that, yet I thought those guys really stepped up and played extremely well. Our focus has always been here, since I’ve been here, we’re going to put our five best guys up there. No matter (the) position, we’re going to try to find our five best guys to put in that scenario.”