Nov 14, 2020; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA;  Tulsa Golden Hurricane quarterback Zach Smith (11) runs the ball during the game against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. TU won the game 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

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No. 24 Tulsa seeks berth in AAC title game with win vs. Navy

No. 24 Tulsa will look to lock up its first berth in the American Athletic Conference title game with a win over Navy on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.

The Golden Hurricane (5-1, 5-0 AAC) have won five straight games since losing at then-No. 11 Oklahoma State 16-7 to open the season. Tulsa can also secure a spot in the conference title game with a loss on Saturday, provided it beats No. 7 Cincinnati (8-0, 6-0) next week.

“I feel like we should be in decent shape,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said Tuesday, according to the Tulsa World. “Everybody’s got bruises and banged up a little bit this time of year, but for the most part I think everybody else will be available.”

However, Tulsa has never beaten Navy (3-5, 3-3) in AAC play. The Midshipmen are 5-0 against Tulsa since they joined the league in 2015. The Midshipmen dominated Tulsa last season, as quarterback Malcolm Perry rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries in a 45-17 win. But Perry now plays for the Miami Dolphins, and the Midshipmen haven’t been able to replicate his production under center this year.

Navy has played at least two quarterbacks in six of its eight games, with the only exceptions being against Temple and Houston, when Dalen Morris played every snap.

Morris and Tyger Goslin split time in the team’s last game, combining to complete 4 of 11 passes for 88 yards and an interception. Navy rushed for 233 yards on 52 carries, led by Nelson Smith, who had 29 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown.

Navy and Tulsa were initially scheduled to meet on Nov. 7, but the game was postponed after a coronavirus outbreak swept through the Naval Academy, preventing the Midshipmen from traveling to Oklahoma for the contest.

By moving the game to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, it will allow Navy to have Senior Day for its 26 Midshipmen to play one more home game. Navy, which closes the season at Army on Dec. 12, has won 17 straight games on Senior Day, but No. 18 should be tough to get.

Tulsa is ranked 14th nationally in third-down defense (.319), 14th in defensive touchdowns (two) and 15th in fumble recoveries (seven). The Golden Hurricane relies heavily on All-America candidate linebacker Zaven Collins, who leads the Golden Hurricane with 48 tackles, four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, and his four interceptions are tied for fourth nationally. Meantime, Kendarin Ray has recorded 46 tackles and broken up five passes, while Bryson Powers has notched two fumble recoveries.

Quarterback Zach Smith, who is coming off a torso injury that sidelined him for most of the team’s last game against Tulane on Nov. 19, has completed 98 of his 162 pass attempts for 1,266 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Josh Johnson (32 catches, 408 yards, 5 TDs) and Keylon Stokes (31 catches, 446 yards, 2 TDs) are his favorite targets.

Deneric Price, who has 356 yards and a pair of scores on 71 carries, and T.K. Wilkerson (73 carries, 300 yards, four touchdowns) pace the ground game.

“What they do on offense presents everybody with trouble,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “They spread you out a ton and pound the football. If you don’t shore up the run game, they’ll keep pounding you. If you try to get people involved with the run game, they’ll get you on the edges.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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