Shemarr Robinson finished the reporter’s question.
As a defensive tackle for the University of Tulsa, Robinson is aware of the same trends media and fans are. Most of the trends surrounding the Golden Hurricane defense this season have been positive, though, so as he sensed a question coming about a fault in the defense, Robinson smirked and cut off the reporter earlier this season.
“On the opening drive? Yeah,” Robinson said.
TU has allowed its opponent to score points on every opening drive this season through four games. Michigan State went down the field for a touchdown in 3:19 to start the opener. The Spartans offense didn’t find the end zone again, despite winning 28-7.
The next week, San Jose State became the only team to come away with just a field goal on its first possession against TU.
Oklahoma State was the quickest to score against the Hurricane, as Chuba Hubbard ran for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. The sequence took 10 seconds. After scoring the next drive, OSU didn’t get to the end zone again until the 4:35 mark in the third quarter.
“I think they just needed to take a deep breath, relax and get back to playing football the way we know how to play it,” TU coach Philip Montgomery said after the game. “Those guys — the big run early, I think we’re just flying a little bit too fast, and we kind of overran it. He hit a cut back in there, and we just kind of over-pursued it, probably a little too hyped there.”
The next Tuesday after that Week 3 loss to OSU was when Robinson was asked about the defense’s first-drive struggles. TU lost to OSU 40-21, but after allowing a 17-0 deficit, the defense stifled the Cowboys, making a 21-20 halftime lead possible.
“We can’t just ease our way into the game and feel our way into the game,” Robinson said. “We can’t just rely on talent to make a couple of big plays to start a game. We gotta be consistent all the way through.”
Wyoming didn’t score in the first quarter against its first three opponents. But against TU, the Cowboys scored a TD on a 33-yard run to start the game. Once again, the Hurricane defense straightened up, and Wyoming didn’t score again until the fourth quarter in a 24-21 win for TU.
Montgomery has credited early-game emotions to his defense’s first-drive woes. The Hurricane just finished a week off after defeating Wyoming, giving TU extra time to fix lingering issues. However, it’s difficult to solve a problem that stems from the game-day atmosphere.
But outside of its opponents’ first drives, TU has allowed 20.25 points a game.
“We’re addressing it and doing some things in practice to try to help that part of it. Yet, you know, our defense has played extremely well all year,” Montgomery said. “I’m very pleased with where we are at defensively. Gotta continue to be attacking, continue to be aggressive. Got a lot of faith in what those coaches and those guys are doing right now.”