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Several University of Tulsa football players are having successful seasons, but the Golden Hurricane is still trying to find a cohesiveness and chemistry that ultimately breeds team success. Tulsa’s 1-4 start has had some bright spots, but the coaching staff will need to generate a more unified and organized on-field group to turn the season around.
“Chemistry was one of the biggest reasons we had success last season,” Tulsa tight ends coach Matt Wells recently told the Times Record. “We had 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense, and we’ve got to find that chemistry again this year.”
Tulsa has lost its last five contests against Division I-A competition, dating back to the Humanitarian Bowl loss against Georgia Tech. Their four losses this season are to teams that participated in bowl games last year.
“We've played some quality football teams,” TU quarterback James Kilian told the Idaho Statesman. “We haven't probably played our best game against them, so it's been a little bit frustrating. You can't dwell on what's happened. The main thing is we're 0-1 in the WAC. That's our main focus now is WAC play.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Hurricane, as their homecoming opponent this weekend is Boise State, ranked No. 18 in the country and winners of 20 consecutive WAC games.
“They have been dominant,” Tulsa head coach Steve Kragthorpe said of Boise State’s 44-17 average score in those 20 wins. “Twenty straight conference wins and winning by an average score like that shows that they are dominating the conference. They're not just squeaking by, but they are crushing people. I am very impressed with them.”
It will take a big effort from TU to compete with the Broncos on Saturday evening, and Kragthorpe pointed out several key players that should help the Hurricane do just that.
“I think there are some guys that as an individual are playing some good football right now,” he explained. “We need to play better collectively, but I think there are some guys you could point to that are doing a really good job right now, like Michael LeDet, Jermaine Hope and Brandon Lohr. They all come to mind on the defensive side.”
LeDet, an outside linebacker, leads the team in tackles with 40, while defensive end Brandon Lohr is fifth with 31 stops. Hope has been consistent at cornerback, leading the team with six pass breakups and collecting 26 tackles (sixth on the team).
“On the offensive side of the football, I think our tight ends are playing good football,” Kragthorpe continued. “I think (center) Derek Warehime is playing well. Chris Kindred has done some good things punting the football and putting it where we need it.”
Kindred, a true sophomore, is 54th nationally in punting with a 40.88-yard average, landing seven kicks inside the opponents’ twenty yard line, and the Hurricane’s top two tight ends – Garrett Mills and Caleb Blankenship – are the two leading receivers, combining for 42 receptions and 337 yards.
Unfortunately for Tulsa, those individual performances only take a team so far. Kragthorpe understands that his team must quickly find that chemistry that led them to being the country’s most improved Division I-A squad last year.
“What we need to do is put all the pieces together and function better as a unit,” he described. “I think if you look at it, we do have some guys that are playing well, but it's a team game, and it takes 11 individuals to work together to be successful as a unit.”
They will have to work fast, as Tulsa will likely need to win at least six of their remaining seven games to have a chance at another bowl game.
The Numbers Game
Out of eight prominent statistical rankings, the University of Tulsa hits the top 50 among the 117 Division I-A teams in just one category.
• 88th in Rushing Offense (117.8 ypg)
• 82nd in Passing Offense (180.0 ypg)
• 101st in Total Offense (297.8 ypg)
• 101st in Scoring Offense (17.8 ppg)
• 90th in Rushing Defense (193.4 ypg)
• 19th in Passing Defense (161.8 ypg)
• 59th in Total Defense (355.2 ypg)
• 78th in Scoring Defense (27.8 ppg)
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