Oct 3, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane running back T.K. Wilkerson (21) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter of a game against the UCF Knights at Spectrum Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

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Tulsa faces No. 8 Cincinnati, seeking first top-10 win since ’71

Playing ranked teams has become the norm for Tulsa, and the Golden Hurricane seeks its first win over a top-10 opponent in nearly 50 years Saturday when they host No. 8 Cincinnati.

The Bearcats (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) have won each of their games by at least two touchdowns and are at their highest spot since reaching No. 4 in 2009.

Tulsa (1-1, 1-0) opened the season at then-No. 11 Oklahoma State with a 16-7 defeat on Sept. 19 before upsetting No. 11 Central Florida 34-26 on Oct. 3 to snap the Knights’ 21-game home winning streak.

For Tulsa, it’s the first time against a top-10 team at home since No. 4 Oklahoma in 2014. Their last win over a Top 10 team was 21-20 over No. 7 Arkansas in 1971.

This marks the first time the Hurricane will play three in a row against opponents ranked at the time of the game.

“I am very proud of our football team and those guys for sticking together,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “We have always been a gritty, hard-nosed 60-minute football team.”

Tulsa, which had three nonconference games canceled or postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, did not play last weekend, nor did Cincinnati after the Bearcats’ 28-7 win against South Florida on Oct. 3.

Despite that victory and wins over Austin Peay (55-20) and Army (24-10), Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell is not satisfied.

“I think there’s a lot of things that we can kind of look at to find a way to take us to the next level,” he said. “That hunger and little bit of anger inside knows darn well we didn’t play quite up to the expectations that we would like to play.”

He said he is concerned by the turnovers of quarterback Desmond Ridder, who has thrown four interceptions and lost a fumble. Fickell said he might give backup Ben Bryant a try, and that their competition in practice has been beneficial.

“I think it’s going to make them better,” Fickell said. “It’s going to make us better in the long run.”

Whoever takes the snaps for Cincinnati will be pressured. Tulsa leads the nation in tackles for losses (12.0 per game) and is tied for 12th in sacks (3.5 per game).

“We’ve got guys with experience that have been playing in this defense now for a little bit longer and figuring out opportunities to really be aggressive and attack,” Montgomery said. “I think a lot of that just goes back to really doing a good job of tackling.

“Our guys have really swarmed the football and we’ve created some pressures and opportunities to get those tackles for losses by being aggressive.”

Cincinnati can play defense too. The Bearcats grabbed five interceptions against South Florida and have seven for the season to tie Texas-San Antonio for second nationally. Syracuse has eight in four games.

Even though Tulsa leads the series 17-15-2, this is just the fourth matchup since 1997 and the fifth time the Hurricane have hosted the Bearcats since 1980.

The last time the teams played in Tulsa was in 2016 when the Hurricane won 40-37 in overtime.

–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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