Ending 10-year ranking drought, No. 25 Tulsa hosts Tulane
Tulsa is used to time off between games this season.
This week, though, the 25th-ranked Golden Hurricane will need to adapt to short preparation time.
Tulsa (4-1, 4-0 American Athletic Conference) will play host to Tulane (5-4, 2-4) on Thursday night in a nationally televised game.
Tulsa has had three weekends in which a game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues. This week, the Golden Hurricane return to action just five days after a 28-24 victory against then-No. 19 SMU.
“It’s going to be a super-quick turnaround,” Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins said, “the fastest I’ve ever been a part of.”
The game against SMU came after a stretch in which the Golden Hurricane played just two games in 41 days. Their scheduled Nov. 7 game against Navy was their most recent postponement due to the pandemic.
“These postponements are crazy,” Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith said. “It (stinks) going and watching film, getting ready for a game and it gets postponed and we have to wait another week to play.”
The sporadic nature of the schedule might have contributed to Tulsa having poor starts in games. The Golden Hurricane had to overcome a 21-point deficit to beat SMU, shutting out the Mustangs in the second half and scoring the winning touchdown with 2:11 to play.
Tulsa overcame an 18-point deficit to defeat UCF and a 14-point deficit to beat East Carolina.
“Do we want to have to do this every week? No,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said, “but our guys know that we can come back. We have to keep getting better and try to get off to a better start.”
The Golden Hurricane, ranked for the first time since 2010, control their fate in the AAC. They will visit Houston and host Cincinnati, currently the No. 7 team in the poll and the only other undefeated team in AAC play.
“We are kind of like a little kid at Christmas right now,” Collins said.
Tulane has shown some resiliency of its own as the season has unfolded. The Green Wave have won three games in a row, all by at least 17 points.
Tulane’s 38-12 victory Saturday against Army, which was ranked No. 25 in the coaches poll at the time, was the Green Wave’s first over a ranked team of any kind in 36 years.
“We’ve had some tough losses,” Tulane defensive end Patrick Johnson said, “and this really gives us momentum to finish the year.”
Now the Green Wave will try to beat a second ranked team in a span of six days.
“To beat a Top 25 team shows us we can compete with pretty much anybody,” Tulane running back Amare Jones said. “When things aren’t going your way, you can’t separate. That’s how things start to go bad, so when we were 2-4, we all just came together.”
The Green Wave’s surge has coincided with the maturation of freshman quarterback Michael Pratt, who has 14 touchdowns and four interceptions in seven starts. He has brought balance to an offense that features the second-most productive running game in the AAC at 243.2 yards per game.
“The fact that we’ve been able to open up the offense has really changed (things),” Pratt said. “We’re getting better and better every week, and we just need to continue to execute.”
Tulane has defeated Tulsa each of the last three seasons, but those Golden Hurricane teams won just two, three and four games.
–Field Level Media