No break for limping Lobos in Tulsa
By Bob Davie’s most recent calculations, a college football field still measures exactly 160 feet in width.
In his estimation, no team utilizes every square inch of that space quite like the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Lobos visit the Golden Hurricane on Saturday in UNM’s first nonconference road game of the season.
“It is the scheme to spread you from sideline to sideline,” Davie said. “You won’t see a team in all of college football that takes wider splits by receivers. I mean, they’ll have guys clear out on the sidelines with the intentions of creating space. Then the combination of tempo, tempo, tempo, space — if there’s any air, all of a sudden that ball creases the line of scrimmage.”
It’s a scheme that is very close to turning Tulsa’s season around, according to Golden Hurricane head coach Philip Montgomery. Despite having a defense that has been torched in the first three weeks of the season, he likes what he sees when he studies game film of his offensive line.
“Even when some things kind of break down, our running backs have done a really great job of making yards when there’s not really anything there,” he said.
Known as a prolific passing team, Tulsa is dangerous when running the ball. It’s all due to that spread formation that siphons the defense’s attention away from the trenches.
“This will be a different kind of run, though,” Davie said. “This will be up on you in a hurry, in your face with the combination of tempo.”
D’Angelo Brewer does most of the work in Tulsa’s two-back set. He is fourth in the country with 447 rushing yards through three games. That includes a 262-yard performance in a win over Louisiana.
As a team they’ve rushed for 847 yards the last two weeks.
“There’s going to be a lot of collisions up in that core,” Davie said. “It’s when that ball breaks the line of scrimmage is when the problem happens, and to be honest there’s not that many people that can tackle them once they break the line of scrimmage. They have a tremendous amount of big plays.”
Of deeper concern for UNM is its own offense. While Tulsa has given up 152 points in three games, the Lobos have scored just 80 points all season. The option attack is a shell of its former self and, oh by the way, the team is down to its third-string quarterback since starter Lamar Jordan and backup Tevaka Tuioti are both out with concussions.
That leaves senior Coltin Gerhart in charge. Behind him is a slew of non-quarterback backups who will play in case of emergency.
“Tempo. Of Tulsa. Tulsa’s offense. And we’re playing with a third-team quarterback,” Davie said, pausing for effect, when asked about his team’s points of emphasis on Saturday. “Pretty good concerns, right? And they won 10 games last year. Let me put another one in there.”
What helps is Gerhart’s even-keeled approach. Unflappable on and off the field, he has had a calming effect on the players and coaches whenever his number has been called.
“He is just a straight line, doesn’t show his emotion — and he plays that way,” Davie said. “When he went in [against Boise State], you didn’t feel the least bit rattled having him in there.”
All that’s left is managing the storm that is the Golden Hurricane, a team that has gotten all the motivation it needed from a blowout loss to Oklahoma State and a crushing loss on the road last week at Toledo.
“I think they’re angry and they’re hurt,” Montgomery said. “They’re ready to get back and prove that what type of team we can really be. Like I said, I really do believe that we’re close in a lot of areas. We got to have [the Toledo] game and that moment where it’s pushing us over the edge and making those things happen.”
MWC struggles: The Mountain West had eight non-conference games last weekend. The only win came from San Diego State, which upset then-No. 19 Stanford at home, 20-17. Save for Nevada’s 30-28 loss at home to Idaho State, everyone else lost by at least 16 points. That includes Colorado State’s 41-23 defeat at No. 1 Alabama.
San Diego State (3-0) cracked both Top 25 polls this week and will travel to Air Force on Saturday night. Only the Aztecs, Boise State (2-1) and Hawaii (2-1) are above .500 at this point in the season.
As a whole, the MWC is 15-19 in nonconference games, going 3-12 on the road.
The prospects for a turnaround this weekend aren’t great. UNLV heads to No. 9 Ohio State, Nevada travels to No. 18 Washington State and Boise State had Virginia at home on Friday night.
Attendance: The Lobos rank sixth in the MWC in attendance, averaging 26,951 in two games at Dreamstyle Stadium. San Diego State leads the way with an average of 44,586 in two games, followed by Fresno State, Air Force, Colorado State and Boise State.
San Jose State is last, having drawn an average of just 12,022 in two games. The league average in 19 home dates prior to Friday was 26,969.
Top picks: Much has been made of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, whom the Lobos will see in person on Oct. 28. Should he actually go No. 1 in next year’s NFL Draft, he would become the second top pick out of the conference since its inception in 1999. That would rank higher than the Big 12 and equal the two top selections out of the ACC and Big Ten.
The SEC has had six No. 1 selections since 1999 while the Pac-12 has had three.
Yardage gains: The Lobos are averaging 122 fewer yards on the ground this season than last. That’s a problem. The good news is they’re giving up just 67.5 yards rushing per game thus far. That equates to just 2.5 yards per opponent carry.