Herd recalls last year's debacle vs. Tulsa
HUNTINGTON - In an afternoon of infamy about 11 months ago, Tulsa won the coin toss, took the wind and proceeded to blow Marshall away.
The score ended 59-17, but that didn't tell the full story of how the Golden Hurricane tore through the Thundering Herd on a sunny, windy day in Oklahoma. Some elements of a game in which the word "debacle" was not strong enough:
This week at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the Herd (2-3, 1-0) can make amends for that wretched afternoon by taking down the Hurricane (4-1, 2-0) in a homecoming battle. Kickoff Saturday is at 3:30 p.m., with the contest airing on CBS Sports Network (channel 512 on Suddenlink in the Kanawha Valley).
"It was a very windy game, that's what I remember," said left tackle Jordan Jeffries. "Couldn't really pass the ball, ball's going all over the place. Couldn't establish a running game. They whooped us pretty good. It will be good to have them come down here and experience this atmosphere and our new retooled offense, and see if we can't change that a little bit."
Tulsa has overcome an opening 38-23 loss at Iowa State with big wins over Tulane (45-10) and Nicholls State (66-16), followed by a comeback win over Fresno State (27-26) which featured dominating defense in the final three quarters.
Last week, the Hurricane was drawn into a shootout at Legion Field, beating Alabama-Birmingham 49-42. A.J. Singleton, the 260-pound bruiser of a running back, scored on a 6-yard run with 5:31 left, and then Mitchell Osborne forced UAB quarterback Austin Brown to cough up the ball to seal the issue.
The three running backs who tormented the Herd are all back: junior Ja'Terian Douglass (194 rushing yards in that game), junior Trey Watts (144) and senior Singleton (22 yards, but three touchdowns). Senior Willie Carter returns in the do-it-all H-back position.
The Hurricane is breaking in a new quarterback, Nebraska transfer Cody Green. The 6-foot-4, 247-pound junior has completed just 51.2 percent of his passes for 1,041 yards, with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. He had a 45-yard touchdown run at UAB.
"He's a big body," said Herd safety Okechukwu Okoroha. "He believes in himself, he believes in his arm. You can see it on film. Some tight spots, I'd think the quarterback wouldn't want to throw it in there, but he takes his shot and throws it. Sometimes he completes it, sometimes it wasn't the best choice.
"He looks like he's a good quarterback. With some time, he's going to be a really good quarterback. He's got the size for it."
The receiving corps has some new parts, especially after Bryan Burnham tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the season opener. Sophomore Keyarris Garrett (6-4, 207) is the top receiver with 20 receptions for 266 yards and four touchdowns, but 6-3, 195-pound Thomas Roberson (eight catches, 174 yards, three TDs) could be the most explosive.
Tulsa's defense leads the nation in sacks with 26. Linebacker DeAundre Brown and end Jared St. John, both seniors, lead with five apiece. Safety Dexter McCoil was a Conference USA defensive player of the week for his 10-tackle role in the Fresno State game.
The Hurricane was one of the favorites in the West Division, and is playing the role so far. It is one of the two C-USA the Herd has failed to knock off since both joined the league in 2005. Tulsa won 38-31 in 2007, 38-35 in the 2008 season finale and by a country mile last year.
The Herd is coming off a 51-41 loss at Purdue, in a game that could have turned just as ugly as the 2011 Tulsa game. In many ways, the Herd as a point to prove on Saturday.
"You can see from the game against Purdue that we're a different team now," Jeffries said. "To overcome a deficit like that, to battle back, it just shows we're a completely different team from last year."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.