Defense dominated the University of Tulsa’s first preseason scrimmage Saturday, totaling four interceptions and close to a dozen sacks.
“I thought our defense did a great job of coming out and establishing the momentum and then just held on to it,” coach Philip Montgomery said. “It’s a learning process. Usually defenses are ahead this time of year and offenses are going to keep growing and getting better, and that’s where we’re at right now.”
It was a frustrating outing for the first-string offense, which failed to score a touchdown. Competing quarterbacks Seth Boomer and Zach Smith alternated series, but neither was particularly productive.
Because of pressure from a defensive line led by hard-to-contain Trevis Gipson and excellent coverage throughout the secondary, the offense lacked the type of big plays the team has been counting on to help spark a turnaround season.
“Today’s not going to be who we are (on offense) at the end of the day,” Montgomery said. “We’ll study this tape and continue to learn and get better from it. More than anything, I think our mindset wasn’t right when we stepped on the field today offensively.
“We came out with the idea we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing in practice, but the defense stepped it up a level and we didn’t match it. We have to come out and match that intensity.”
The Hurricane defense is riding high from a 2018 season in which it benefited from schematic changes and ranked ninth nationally against the pass. With nine starters back and veteran playmakers all over the field, the defense is challenging the offense every day.
“We try to get as much pressure on the offense as we can, just like they try to score on us as much as they can,” Gipson said. “Eventually, iron sharpens iron, so us making them work and our defensive line getting to the quarterback and our defensive backs putting pressure on the wide receivers, it ultimately makes the whole team better.”
With running backs Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor II used minimally to avoid injuries, TU relied more on its passing attack Saturday. Top targets Keylon Stokes and Keenen Johnson had several short receptions, as did sophomore Sam Crawford Jr.
An offensive line with three new starters frequently was overwhelmed. The lone touchdown scored when the second-string units were on the field was a 10-yard run by freshman running back Chris Lovick.
“We’ve got a lot of growing to do,” offensive lineman Chris Ivy Jr. said. “We’ve got a lot of getting better to do. … Today was definitely a good learning moment out there for the whole offense.”
The quarterback competition will seemingly continue into the third week of fall camp, with no clear separation shown in the first scrimmage.
“Guys made a couple of throws in there,” Montgomery said. “We missed a lot of throws. I was just disappointed in the consistency or lack thereof that we had in our quarterback play today. … Nobody just jumped out and took a lead today, and there was a great opportunity to do that.”
The Hurricane is off Sunday before returning to the practice field Monday morning. Saturday will be the annual fan fest, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring a scrimmage that is open to the public and will provide a glimpse of what to expect this season.
“The great thing about it is we don’t have to be right right now, but that time is coming pretty quick and we’ve got to continue to keep growing,” Montgomery said.
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