Scouting the Competition: Tulsa Q&A
Every week, we'll talk with someone who covers Ohio State's opponent to get more insight into what the Buckeyes will see on Saturday. This week, Tulsa comes to Columbus. We got a report on the Golden Hurricane from Chris Harmon of InsideTulsaSports.
Which is the real Tulsa team? The one that lost to UC Davis or the one that hung around and had a chance against Oklahoma State?
Harmon: The ‘real’ Tulsa team showed up at Oklahoma State but is far from a finished product. Against UC Davis, Tulsa was missing six players – including four starters – for the entire game, and three more for the first half due to suspensions stemming from last year’s fight at the end of TU’s bowl game against Mississippi State. It obviously caused issues for Tulsa in the loss to UC Davis, but it was still inexcusable for the Hurricane to lose at home to a FCS opponent.
The UC Davis game was also the first start for quarterback Davis Brin, who looked much more comfortable and confident in the final three quarters against Oklahoma State. The defense was steady for most of the game in Stillwater, and according to Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery, TU played much more like the coaching staff expected in week two.
Defensively, what's the base approach and who are the players that OSU fans need to know?
Harmon: The base defense for Tulsa is the odd-stack. Defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie has excelled after the transition to this 3-3-5 formation, using blitzes and slants to confuse the offensive line. The Hurricane is still adjusting to the absence of first-round draft pick and Arizona Cardinals starting linebacker Zaven Collins, but middle linebacker Justin Wright continues to wreak havoc, including a pick six last week against Oklahoma State.
Jaxon Player is an undersized but extremely capable defensive tackle that often draws double-teams due to his explosiveness, and Tulsa has an experienced group of safeties.
The Buckeye defense has struggled mightily, especially against the run. Is Tulsa good enough to exploit that?
Harmon: Tulsa likes to run the ball, so we’ll definitely find out if the Hurricane can exploit the Buckeyes run defense. TU rushed for 247 yards in its season-opener, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. However, they struggled a bit against Oklahoma State, gaining 3.3 yards per rush and finishing with 140 yards. If Tulsa can generate some holes up front, they can definitely do damage with running backs Deneric Prince and Shamari Brooks.
If Tulsa's going to make this interesting, what does it have to do?
Harmon: To stay in the game, Tulsa will have to take care of the football on offense and limit big plays on defense. TU cannot afford mistakes and penalties, as errors are too hard to overcome against such a talented team on the road. Tulsa showed major progress in week two, but will have to continue that upward trend in order to make it a game at the Shoe.
Is it realistic for Tulsa to make it interesting?
Harmon: Tulsa has a knack for often playing to the level of their competition, sometimes losing games they shouldn’t or pulling out an underdog win. Making the latter happen at Ohio Stadium against a Top 10 team is highly unlikely, but making the game interesting into the second half isn’t far-fetched if Tulsa continues to make strides in week three. The Hurricane is an experienced team with a load of returning starters. Back in 2016, Tulsa and Ohio State were tied 3-3 after first quarter. If TU can limit mistakes, eliminate turnovers and get into a rhythm on offense, they can hopefully make it interesting for more than just one quarter.