Who has the edge? Tulsa Edition Part II
LARAMIE -- People like to say that the game of football is
not played on paper.
They are right. But it’s still fun to look.
Today, we will breakdown the defenses of the Tulsa Golden
Hurricane and Wyoming Cowboys. The two squads will meet Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
So, who has the edge on defense?
Let’s break it down real quick.
Tulsa returns two-of-three starters on the defensive line in nose guard, Tyarise Stevenson, and senior defensive end, Trevis Gipson. This duo has combined for 17 tackles and Gipson, who is 6-foot, 4-inches and 268 pounds, has the Golden Hurricane’s two sacks on the season. Last Saturday against in-state foe Oklahoma State, running back, Chubba Hubbard gashed Tulsa for 256 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. He also had a long of 75. As a team, the Cowboys recorded 337 yards on 46 carries. Of course, that isn’t all on the defensive line, but pressure and tackles behind the line have been far and few between for this squad through three games this season. Tulsa had been good against the rush until Hubbard came to town. The Golden Hurricane held San Jose State to just 115 yards and Michigan State to 108 in the season opener in East Lansing.
Sacks are starting to pile up for the Pokes. A big reason why is the emergence of defensive end, Garrett Crall, who has three sacks in his last two games. Wyoming got to Texas State signal caller Gresch Jensen five times in the second half. They sacked Mason Petrino four times last Saturday in Laramie. Solomon Byrd picked up his first sack against the Vandals, and Josiah Hall has 2.5 on the season. Tulsa has given up nine sacks already this season. Wyoming’s line took a hit this week when defensive end Leevi Lafaele was lost to a season-ending injury. Teagan Liufau will be one of many who are expected to pick up the slack there. Javaree Jackson has been steady at the tackle position, and Mario Mora, Cole Godbout and Victor Jones have all played big minutes. Wyoming has the 21st-ranked rushing defense in the nation, allowing just 85.7 yards per game. They will need to stand tall again this week and put in a 60-minute effort if the Pokes hope to leave Oklahoma unbeaten in non-conference play.
Tulsa returns all three linebackers from 2018, including a pair of seniors, Diamon Cannon and Cooper Edmiston. Edmiston leads the Golden Hurricane with 25 tackles and a pass deflection out of his middle linebacker spot. Cannon has just nine tackles and a pass breakup through three games. Sophomore Zaven Collins has 19 tackles on the season. Tulsa is 105th overall against the run. Last season they were 119th in the nation in that category. Wyoming’s strength is pounding the ball up the middle. Tulsa has plenty of birthdays in the linebacking corps, but can they at least slow down the Cowboys’ potent attack? They sure didn’t against the Cowboys from Stillwater.
Logan Wilson is now the seventh all-time tackler in Wyoming history, passing Ward Dobbs and Lucas Wacha with an 11-tackle effort against Idaho. Wilson, the three-time team captain from Casper, leads the team with 35 stops through three games. He also has three pass deflections and has all but shutdown opposing tight ends. Chad Muma has been a pleasant surprise for the Pokes at linebacker, racking up 16 tackles this season, a year after playing only special teams. Cassh Maluia has been opportunistic early this season, snagging an interception in the opener against Mizzou and picking up half-a-sack. Ben Wisdorf even has a forced fumble. It was a big one, too, on the goal line against the Tigers just before half. The Cowboys are better against the run than Tulsa and get to the quarterback.
Tulsa featured the top pass defense in the American Athletic Conference in 2018. Heck, they were ranked eighth overall in the country, giving up just 174.6 yards per game through the air. That was last year. Only strong safety, Manny Bunch, and nickel back, Bryson Powers, return for the Golden Hurricane this season. Tulsa is allowing just a tick under 200 yards passing per game through three games this season. Tulsa did a nice job against high-flying OSU, holding quarterback Spencer Sanders to just 169 yards on 12-of-22 passing. He threw one touchdown and a pick. The Golden Hurricane secondary has not allowed more than 21 completions or 200 yards passing in any game yet this season. That doesn’t bode well for the visitors, who feature one of the worst passing attacks in the nation. Tulsa’s main Achilles heel this season has been lack of takeaways. They have one interception and are minus-2 in that category.
Turnovers have been a bright spot for the Pokes’ defense in the early going. While the offense has only turned the ball over once – a Hail Mary just before the half against Texas State – the defense has a pair of touchdowns and are plus-5 through three games. Wyoming did not have a takeaway in a 21-16 win over Idaho. Antonio Hull, Wyoming’s senior corner back, will return to the lineup in Tulsa after missing two games while dealing with a “personal issue” back home in California. He came back at just the right time, too. CJ Coldon was lost for the season this week with an undisclosed injury. Coldon had 14 tackles and a scoop and score against Mizzou. Tyler Hall has been the best player in the secondary, and Rome Weber, Braden Smith and Alijah Haliburton have been big hitters. Nickel back Keyon Blankenbaker has 14 tackles and five pass breakups this season. Now for the bad news. Wyoming is 128th in the nation in pass defense, allowing 342.3 yards per game through the air. Only Arizona and New Mexico are worse in that category. The Cowboys’ secondary has its work cut out this week in steamy Tulsa. Can they do enough to sow down a duo of deep threats? We’ll see.
Freshman Jacob Rainey is just 2-for-2 on field-goal attempts with a long of 28, and Tulsa’s punting game has been average, at best, at 38.4 yards per punt. The Golden Hurricane has been dangerous in the kick-return game. Keylon Stokes has taking back seven kicks for 146 yards. That’s an average of 20 yards per. Wyoming has allowed just one kick return this season, and that came after a pair of personal foul penalties set them back at Texas State.
Cooper Rothe has shown to be human after all. Wyoming’s place kicker has missed three field goals in the last two games – all wide left – after missing just one in all of 2018. The Lou Groza finalist says his confidence is still high. Ryan Galovich is averaging just 37.9 yards per kick but hasn’t put returners in a bad spot since the opener against Mizzou. Austin Conway had a nice punt return against Idaho and is always primed to bust a big one. If Rothe can make his kicks and not let Stokes have a chance at a return, the Cowboys easily have the advantage here.