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November 1, 2012
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Tyler Wilson, beware.
No team in the country has sacked more opposing quarterbacks this season than Tulsa, which will be chasing after Arkansas' NFL prospect of a quarterback on Saturday.
The Golden Hurricane (7-1) lead the nation with 35 sacks this season, averaging a whopping 4.4 per game. All that pressure on the quarterback is one reason why Tulsa will carry a seven-game winning streak into its matchup against the Razorbacks (3-5).
"We never set a goal about the sack thing," said linebacker DeAundre Brown, who leads Conference USA and is tied for ninth in the nation by averaging a sack per game.
"It just came to us and now we pride on it and we just keep pushing forward to make it better."
Although Brown leads the way from his middle linebacker spot, second-year defensive coordinator Brent Guy has been getting pressure from everywhere in his front seven. Thirteen players have recorded sacks for Tulsa this season, including every starting defensive lineman and linebacker.
Defensive end Jared St. John is right behind Brown with seven sacks this season.
"We've been more effective and efficient at the same time. We're being unselfish and listening to the play call, not doing our own thing," Brown said.
The challenge could get tougher this week against an SEC offensive line that is allowing only 1 1/2 sacks per game. Through the first seven games, the Razorbacks had allowed four sacks to Alabama's top-ranked defense but a total of only four against the other six opponents.
Then, Mississippi got to Wilson three times while beating Arkansas 30-27 last week.
"I think it's interesting that we do a good job with sacks and getting them, they do a great job of preventing them," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said.
Texas A&M is the only SEC team that has flung it around more than Arkansas, which has thrown 304 passes on the season with 11 sacks allowed.
"They're throwing the ball all over the place and yet not giving up many sacks," Blankenship said.
"Part of that is certainly a tribute to the offensive line. I think those guys are really solid up front. ... I think they've done a good job of protecting Tyler, but also I think you have to give him some credit that he doesn't sit back there and hold the football. He's pretty good about getting rid of it. He kind of has the timing in his head and handles that pretty well."
The clock could be ticking come Saturday.
"They do a good job of changing up their pressures," Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said. "A lot of them, they've gotten people to not check. They disguise them pretty good and a lot of them keep people from checking. Some of them have been on second effort. Some they got the quarterback to hold the ball. ... And then some of them, I think, have been because they've had a big lead. They've got people to throw the ball so much and they've gotten a lot of sacks."
While the Golden Hurricane have gotten to the quarterback more than anyone else, they've also had issues when they don't get there. They allowed more than 1,100 yards passing in a three-game span against UAB, Marshall and UTEP despite notching 14 sacks.
"We'll get exposed pretty fast if we didn't get them cleaned up," said Blankenship. "Tyler Wilson is an outstanding, outstanding quarterback. A year ago, we saw I think arguably four of the best in college football and I think he fits right in that category" with ex-Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, ex-Houston quarterback Case Keenum and ex-Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.
"I think he's definitely an NFL-type guy. He seems to be very smart with the ball, knows what he wants to do, doesn't hang onto it and very productive. All you have to do is look at the numbers."
Wilson's reputation has also caught the attention of Tulsa's defenders.
"Any time you get to go against somebody who's slated to be a top draft pick, he's got scouts talking about him, as a defense, we just see that as an opportunity to make a big name for ourselves," said cornerback Lowell Rose, adding that even Tom Brady was affected by pressure against the New York Giants in a pair of Super Bowls.
The Golden Hurricane certainly don't intend to back down.
"We're not going to quit trying to getting pressure on him. We do think that even when we don't get a sack, pressure can make a difference. So, we'll do what we do," Blankenship said. "We're going to put pressure on and try to mix it up and disguise it."