After a pair of seasons that saw Bill Blankenship end up 5-19, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane fired Blankenship and hired Baylor offensive coordinator Philip Montgomery.
Montgomery was coming off of a 2014 season in which he led the Baylor offense to the best statistical season in school history, just missing out on the inaugural college football playoff.
For a coach that had spent the last seven seasons with the Bears, a move to take over the Tulsa program seemed like an surprising fit. For Montgomery, it was time to step out from under Art Briles' shadow and give head coaching a shot.
In his first year with the program, Tulsa has improved from 2-10 to 6-6 with a bowl berth soon to be announced. His wide open offense turned an offense that could only muster 24.6 points per game into an offense that was in the top 30 nationally in scoring at 35.0 points per game.
Let's take a look at Tulsa and review how the program looked in the first regular season under Philip Montgomery.
While the offensive talent level isn't at the level that Montgomery prefers, there were some important pieces left by Blankenship that have proven to be quite useful. With those players, the high flying offense scored over 40 points on six occasions, and was only held under 20 points on one occasion.
Junior quarterback Dane Evans was a 3,000 yard passer in 2014 with Keyarris Garrett, Keevan Lucas, and Joshua Adkinson all great receiving options. Evans has thrown for 3,958 yards on the season and 22 touchdowns. Despite a knee injury Lucas sustained early in the season, the trio of receivers still combined for 179 catches and 16 touchdowns on the season.
The Golden Hurricane have started looking like the Baylor offenses of the past few years that would put up points versus any team on their schedule. Credit rightfully goes to Montgomery and company for an offense that is light years ahead of last season.
Needing to make a hire at defensive coordinator, Mopntgomery went with Bill Young. The 69-year old with a resume a mile long that included a stint in the 1980s with Tulsa, was brought in by Montgomery to help fix the team's defense. All that was tasked of Young was to make the Tulsa defense at least average. There was no expectation for him to completely overhaul a defense that gave up 39.3 points per game in 2014.
Statistically, Young did improve on the horrid 2014 season by a tiny bit. The points per game allowed dropped from 39.3 to 38.6, the tiniest of increments.
The problem with the Tulsa defense has been the tenancy to either stop a play in the backfield or give up a big play. The lack of an in between defense has resulted in giving up many big plays.
The Tulsa defense gave up 73 plays of 20 or more yards on the season, including 12 apiece versus Memphis and Houston. That same defense made 83 tackles for a loss on the season, including 21 sacks. Trent Martin and Matt Linscott combined for 30 of the 83 tackles for loss and 194 total tackles on the season.
Special Teams: B
The Golden Hurricane were solid on Preston Soper's kickoffs with the average starting point for teams being inside the 30. Punting by Dalton Parks was equally solid with an average punt over 40 and a very low return average.
The only part of special teams that keeps the group from getting an A for the year is the field goal unit. Redford Jones was only 16-24 on the year with two kicks blocked. Missing 23 and 20 yard kicks hurt the cause significantly.
Montgomery took a team that had won five of their previous 24 games and pulled out a 6-6 record in his first year with the program. If it wasn't for some of the incredible coaching jobs like Willie Taggart at South Florida, Montgomery would get more love for the AAC coach of the year.
A defense that was just as bad as 2014 and missed chances at pulling upsets when the opportunity was there keep the Golden Hurricane from an even higher grade heading into the bowl season.