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Tulsa offensive tackle Evan Plagg (left) gets ready to block Southern Methodist Mustangs defensive end Justin Lawler during the game at HA Chapman Stadium in Tulsa on Oct. 7. BRETT ROJO/ for the Tulsa World

In addition to upgraded level of play and a renewed excitement surrounding the program, the University of Tulsa has adopted an important mindset change during the Philip Montgomery Era.

“Every time we step onto the football field, we’re stepping on the field to win,” Montgomery said. “We’re not stepping on it to compete. We’re not stepping on it to play well, to look good, any of those things.

“Our guys are expecting to win now. We’re planning on winning. There’s not going to be anybody surprised when we come back in the locker room and we get a ‘W’. ”

Because of obvious improvements in Montgomery’s second season, the Golden Hurricane doesn’t have a false sense of competitiveness. The team is a couple of plays from being undefeated in league play and controls its destiny in the American Athletic Conference race.

With victories in the remaining five games, starting Saturday night at Memphis, TU would claim the championship in the currently congested West Division and advance to the league’s title game.

Asked whether players believe that feat is possible, offensive lineman Evan Plagg said: “That’s been the buzz around the locker room and the team. Guys are happy. They’re excited for the future and what we have going for us right now. That’s basically what we’re looking forward to, is getting these conference wins.”

Believing and achieving are different things. Although it’s coming off the largest margin of victory in a league game since joining the American in 2014, a 50-27 thumping of Tulane, the Hurricane hasn’t pulled off an upset under Montgomery.

With the Tigers (5-2, 2-1) playing in their home stadium and being favored by a touchdown, TU will be in its familiar underdog role after having lost seven of its nine road games in the league.

“We’ve got a tough task in front of us,” Montgomery said. “Always, going to Memphis is a tough place to play. They’ll have a good crowd and the Liberty Bowl, it can get loud in there.”

Last season, the Hurricane won six games and made its first bowl appearance since 2012. With a back-to-back bowl appearance a win away, defeating Memphis would be a significant stride for an on-the-rise team seeking to take another step as a program.

“Our football team is looking forward to the opportunity to go down there and get on the field with them and have a chance to compete and get after it,” Montgomery said. “The ultimate goal is obviously to get back on that plane happy after a big win. It would be a big win for our program, getting it done there.”


American Athletic Conference Standings

West

 ConferenceOverall
Navy4-05-1
Memphis2-15-2
Tulsa2-15-2
Houston3-26-2
SMU1-23-4
Tulane0-33-4

East

 ConferenceOverall
USF3-16-2
Temple3-15-3
UCF2-14-3
Cincinnati1-34-3
UConn1-43-5
East Carolina0-32-5

Kelly Hines

918-581-8452

kelly.hines@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @KellyHinesTW

Sports Writer

Kelly has been the University of Tulsa football and basketball beat writer since 2014. She grew up in Moore, was valedictorian at Christian Heritage Academy and graduated from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8452