Wow. What a long, weird, and exciting game. Tulsa sleepwalked into Fresno Saturday, and they were hit by a flurry of punches from the Bulldogs. 20 minutes into this game, Tulsa trailed 31-0.
The atmosphere for this game was odd. Consider these two games to convey my point: At Ohio State, the Buckeyes led by 10 and it felt like 30 because of the crowd. In this game, Fresno was up 30 and it felt like it was a tie game. The energy was just not there, and although that isn’t an excuse for Tulsa to not show up, it does make it tough to find motivation.
Tulsa rallied from the deficit, and rode D’Angelo to build a 35-34 lead. At that point, it looked like Tulsa was ready to take control; however, Fresno was not finished. The Bulldogs took a 41-38 lead with 5 minutes left on a Chason Virgil TD run. Tulsa had an impressive final drive, and uh, settled for a FG and overtime. In the first OT, Tulsa’s defense forced a turnover, meaning TU needed just a FG to win it. After 3 conservative play calls, Redford lined up for a career long 42-yard field goal, it sailed right and we were headed to a second OT.
In the second overtime, Tulsa faced a 2nd and 16. Dane completed a clutch 13 yard pass to Justin Hobbs, then took it himself (finally) for a 18-yard TD run. Tulsa held Fresno on their possession, and escaped with a 48-41 victory.
Well that was a scrambled recap, now onto my thoughts.
1) Tackling was horrific.
This was the biggest issue for Tulsa’s defense today. When a member of our defense hits a player, he has to engage him and wrap up, then let the rest of the defense swarm and help bring him down. Today, we had our best players just throwing their arms at bulldogs, and at times we completely whiffed! This has yet to be a major issue so far, but it was today. I don’t know if that due to Tulsa’s lack of intensity, or a larger problem, but either way this can’t be the case in conference play.
2) Brewer has been our best offensive player this season.
Brewer carried the ball an exhausting 46 times tonight, for 252 yards. For context, Brewer had only 51 carries for 282 through 3 games entering today! Jeez, I’m glad we have a bye next week so he can rest up. We do not win this game without D’Angelo Brewer, we literally rode him the entire second half. Flanders was great as well, as he added 101 yards of his own on only 13 carries! Back to Brewer though, he now has 534 yards on the season, so he’s averaging over 133.5 yards per game. That’s video game numbers, and he has been the offensive MVP through 4 games.
3) The O-Line was the main reason for our comeback.
I say that we don’t win without Brewer (which is true), but we also owe this victory to our offensive line. They had an inauspicious start (as did every TU player), allowing 3 sacks in the first quarter, and failing to open up holes for the running game. Credit to Coach Bloesch though for making corrections as the line was tremendous for the rest of the game. I know Fresno has a weak run defense, but I was still impressed with the work the o-line did.
4) Dane was good, but there is still room for improvement.
Dane’s final numbers were 22/32 for 273 yards, and 4 TDs. His one interception was ugly, but if you take that away I think he played a tremendous game. He leaned on Brewer for most of the day, but when he needed to, he made some plays. First, check out this great throw with pressure in his face to Atkinson for the touchdown.
Big time throw by Dane. Tulsa only trails by one possession now. pic.twitter.com/uJxWn0paeP
— Reign Cane Sports (@ReignCaneSports) September 24, 2016
His best play of the game came on their final possession of regulation. Facing a 3rd and 8 from Fresno’s 35 with 2 minutes left in the half, Dane scrambled, stumbled, and threw an incredible 15 yard shovel pass to Hobbs for a first down.
ARE YOU SERIOUS! Dane Evans! pic.twitter.com/GoLSIPbnvH
— Reign Cane Sports (@ReignCaneSports) September 25, 2016
Dane was a senior leader for us tonight, and while I still think he has his best football ahead of him, he did what he needed to do to get the victory.
4) In fact, a lot of improvement can be made all-around.
Through 4 games of the season, I have seen a lot of things I like. The defense (aside from today) has been very good, the running game has been great, and the line has been good most of time. However, I think a lot of improvements can still be made. Dane Evans can be sharper, Keevan is still shaking off rust, and some of the play calling has been sub-par. So while there were a lot of concerning things tonight, I think those kinks can be worked out and Tulsa still has their best football ahead of them.
5) Defending the option is still an issue.
After containing JT Barrett and Kenny Potter, I thought Tulsa had solved their dual threat QB problems, but evidently they still do not know how to defend the read option. Chason Virgil is not a good QB, he cannot throw the ball well at all, so why weren’t we able to stack the box and stuff the Virgil when he chose to run? That’s a question that Bill Young must answer before their October 15th matchup vs Houston.
6) This was a weird, weird game.
This game was just odd. It was the largest comeback in school history, Brewer carried the ball 46 times, and Dane Evans had a touchdown run. Not to mention the weird stream on Twitter, and seeing the same drunk driving commercial every single break. I’ve been a football fan for a long time, and it sure doesn’t feel good when you lose weird games like this. So as bad as TU looked tonight, we got a victory and that is the most important thing. Tulsa is 3-1 heading into their bye week and conference play, and they’ve positioned themselves quite well to be 4-1 headed to Houston.
Podcast coming tomorrow.