The long wait is finally over. College football season is back, and it is officially game week for Michigan State for the first time in 2019. The Spartans will once again open up the season on a Friday night under the lights in East Lansing. The team awaiting the Spartans first out of the gate is Tulsa. I would suspect that most people are not all that familiar with Tulsa football, and that is why you have come to the right place. Let’s get the season rolling and get to know our first opponent.
School: University of Tulsa
Nickname: Golden Hurricane
Conference: American Athletic Conference
Location: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Head Coach: Phillip Montgomery (5th season, 21-29)
Mascot: Captain Cane
All-Time Series: First Ever Meeting
The Golden Hurricane went 3-9 last season under Phillip Montgomery, just a one game improvement over their 2-10 mark the season before that. That made it two straight disappointing seasons after Montgomery led the school to a 10-3 mark in just his second season as head coach, which culminated with a bowl win.
The former Baylor offensive coordinator will be looking for a big improvement this year, or he could very well find himself on the hot seat or worse.
Tulsa checked in at 103rd in scoring offense a year ago, averaging 24.1 points per game. They were 35th in total rushing offense at just over 200 yards on the ground per game. Their per carry rushing average was just 82nd, at 4.13 yards per tote.
The Golden Hurricane didn’t have much of a passing attack, checking in at 109th nationally in passing offense at just 177.1 yards per game. They were 100th in yards per attempt, 109th in completion percentage, and 110th in passer rating.
On defense, Tulsa allowed 29.6 points per game, ranking 80th in the country. Their total defense checked in at 76th overall, allowing 407.7 yards per game.
Teams were able to run against the Hurricane with ease. They allowed 233.08 yards per game on the ground, the 12th most per game in the nation. The average carry against them went for five yards, 107th in the country.
Through the air it was a different story. Tulsa was eighth in the nation in overall passing defense, giving up just 174.6 yards per game. This is possibly tied into the fact that they had the eighth fewest passing attempts against them overall, and the 13th fewest attempts per game.
They were 40th in yards per pass attempt, and 41st in opponent passer rating. They only allowed 11 passing touchdowns, while picking off nine passes.
Players to Watch
It wasn’t officially announced, but it seems that redshirt junior transfer Zach Smith is going to be the starter at quarterback. Smith sat out last season after transferring from Baylor after his sophomore year. He played 18 games at Baylor, including 10 starts, throwing for just under 3,000 yards with 21 TD’s and 15 picks.
Smith was a top-300 recruit out of high school and ranked in the top 10 quarterback recruits by ESPN, so he comes with a decent pedigree.
Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor were the team’s top rushers a year ago and both return for their junior seasons this year. Brooks had 967 yards on 4.22 yards per carry and seven scores. Taylor had 846 yards on 4.75 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. Neither one of them are big pass catching threats, with just 10 receptions for 76 yards combined between the two of them last year.
The Hurricane also return their leading receiver, Keylon Stokes. Last season Stokes hauled in 41 catches for 575 yards and two touchdowns. He is joined by another pair of senior receivers in Keenan Johnson and Jarion Anderson.
On defense, Trevis Gipson led the team in sacks last year with four and added nine tackles for loss. Linebacker Zevan Collins was second on the team in tackles and first in TFL’s as a freshman and also added a pick.
Cooper Edmiston was honorable mention All-Conference and led the team with 113 tackles, four interceptions, and was third with 7.5 tackles for loss.
No returning defensive backs had an interception last season.