Defense wins football games. Defense wins championships.
Philip Montgomery and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane’s focus this week was improving the defense after giving up more than 40 points per game in their first two games.
Tulsa’s defense was a major work in progress heading into Saturday’s game against Toledo and now it looks like they took a major step back. The Golden Hurricane gave up 54 points to the Rockets, allowing Toledo to march down the field for the game-winning field goal as the clocked turned zero, giving Toledo a 54-51 victory.
Holding a 28-14 lead heading into halftime, Tulsa could have had been ahead by three possessions by holding Toledo to a field goal or, better yet, not allowing the Rockets to score at all. Toledo went through Tulsa’s defense like a hot knife through butter heading into the locker room, with quarterback Logan Woodside connecting to Cody Thompson for a 26-yard touchdown pass.
For Toledo, the party to the end zone was just getting started.
Just under a minute into the second half, Tulsa gave up a 49-yard touchdown to Terry Swanson that made it a one-possession game. Toledo’s defense held Tulsa to a field goal, but Tulsa failed to do the same.
Giving up an 81-yard touchdown connection from Woodside to Thompson, Toledo took the lead on their next possession off the same quarterback-wide receiver connection.
What were Toledo’s next two touchdowns? Long-yard touchdowns, of course.
Woodside connected to Diontae Johnson off a 49 and 74-yard pass that allowed Toledo to take a one-touchdown lead with eight minutes left to play. Tulsa’s offense did their job to tie the game, thanks to a Shamari Brooks run, but the Golden Hurricane’s defense failed to do theirs.
The Golden Hurricane had the opportunity to put the game out of reach after a third and five situation, but Tulsa gave the Rockets a free first down after pass interference by the defense. On second and four, a penalty once again gave Toledo free yardage thanks to a personal foul from Kerwin Thomas.
Thomas’ penalty put Toledo in Tulsa territory, eventually getting in better field goal off an 18-yard pass from Woodside to Thompson. Tulsa’s defense gave up 40 points in the second half, gave up 679 yards and allowed Woodside to connect to his receivers for six scores.
Tulsa only gave up 21 points to Oklahoma State in the second half and only 42 points for the game against Louisiana. Clearly, second half defense was the reason that Tulsa was unable to come up with their first road win of the season.
The Golden Hurricane offense did its job, coming up with 423 combined rushing yards and scoring all of Tulsa’s touchdowns through the ground. Quarterback Chad President had more rushing yards than passing yards, coming up with 130 yards on the ground while getting 125 yards to through the air.
Tulsa brought in former quarterback and the school’s all-time passing leader, Dane Evans, as a coach in training to help President and the Golden Hurricane offense. Montgomery felt their offense needed help, but right now their defense needs most, if not all, the focus right now.