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Keys to the Game: What Tulsa Must Do to Beat Oklahoma

After last week's overtime win over Tulane, the Golden Hurricane are on a high. Now they have to face Oklahoma, even if it is H.A. Chapman Stadium. Have Tulsa a hope in hell, or should they even bother showing up?

Trey Watts putting up points on the Sooners!!
Trey Watts putting up points on the Sooners!!
Brett Deering

Of course they should show up. College football is nothing if not surprising, and no win is impossible, even if highly improbable. Here's a fun fact for you - at one stage in this rivalry that begin in 1917, Tulsa led the series 4-2-1. The series went on hiatus in 1943, and when the games started up again in 1979, it was all Oklahoma, with the Golden Hurricane getting blown out repeatedly. The one exception was 1996, when Tulsa did the unthinkable and beat an admittedly poor Sooner team 31-24. Can they repeat history against an OU team pegged for a playoff berth? Eh, maybe?

Protect the passer

This is a staple of every game really, but even with Evans' big game last week, he was still shaky at times, firing 2 interceptions and having another called back. That was with a decent Tulane pass rush. Now he faces an Oklahoma pass rush that can literally be referred to as ferocious; one that dismantled the Alabama offensive line to the tune of 7 sacks in the Sugar Bowl. Tulsa's young offensive line performed capably against Tulane, but they need to take a quantum leap forward to get the job done this week. Expect max packages in pass protection to give Evans the time he needs to get the ball away. Tight end Tyler Wilson and running backs Tavarreon Dickerson and James Flanders could be seeing plenty of receptions.

Play some manly defense

Oklahoma were pretty good against Louisiana Tech last week, but they weren't great. Other teams looked far more dominant. Of course, that could be just first game jitters. They ran for a solid 183 yards and 5 TDs, but the passing game could stand to be better. Trevor Knight became a media hero for his play against the Crimson Tide, but completed an okay 19 of 34 passes for 253 yards and a score, with 1 interception, against the Bulldogs. He completed just 3 of 8 passes on third down, with only 2 going for first downs. That will get it done against CUSA, but not the big boys. And hopefully not Tulsa. In Knight's defense, he did convert all 3 of his fourth down attempts for first downs - perhaps the Sooners were practising just that. After getting gutted by Sherman Badie last week, it doesn't need a lot of explaining what needs to be done against Oklahoma's stable of thoroughbreds.

Play the field position game

Special teams can be a key to little guys knocking off the powerhouses. Tulsa needs to do a lot better this week. After a shaky start, Carl Salazar made his last 3 field goals, and hopefully that will be the rule instead of the exception. Kickoff specialist Preston Soper had 2 touchbacks, but knocked one out of bounds, and the Hurricane won't win by giving away free yards. Punter Dalton Parks wasn't bad, but he needs to pin the Sooners as deep as possible, forcing them to go on long drives. Coverage was okay, but the return game wasn't impressive, and Tulsa are usually solid in this department. One further note on free yards - 9 penalties for 90 yards, and a couple declined - needless to say this has to be reduced as close to zero as possible. Let Oklahoma commit all the penalties.