On September 24, the Boise State Broncos will play host to Conference-USA's Tulsa Golden Hurricane on the Blue. By then, Bronco head coach Chris Petersen will have had a chance to see the 2011 Hurricanes in action after a bruising schedule that has Tulsa opening their season with Oklahoma, a road game to Tulane, then taking on state rival Big12 Oklahoma State at home---all before their showdown with the Broncos in week four. All you can say to that is "Wow!"
But the Hurricanes are tough---as tough as any Boise State might face this season. Last year Tulsa went 10-3, with the three losses to East Carolina, Oklahoma State, and Southern Methodist. The 2-point loss to East Carolina was by a score of 51-49, and the loss to SMU by 3, ending the game 21-18. Only the Okie Cowboys gave them a solid beat-down. But Tulsa closed out their 2010 season in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl beating #24 ranked Hawaii 62-35.
Despite last years record, many Bronco fans might be too quick to dismiss Tulsa as an onfield threat. That is because the 'Canes haven't had a lot of success playing Boise State teams in the past. They are 0-5 against the Broncos, and have not fared well against other MWC teams, either. But the truth is they have been getting better. They now have one of the top offenses in the country, and last season averaged 41 points and 505 yards per game. And they have a new defensive coordinator in Brent Guy to shore up a porous defense. If his name sounds familiar its because he is the former head coach at Utah State. If there is a question in the coaching staff it will be about new head coach Bill Blankenship who replaced Todd Graham in January, and the changes he might bring to Tulsa.Assuming the changes remain minimal there are certain things we can still expect. Offensively, the Tulsa team has an excellent QB. GJ Kinne, 6' 2" 215 lbs, threw for 3,650 yards last season, completing 59.8 percent of this passes. He also threw for 31 TD's vs 10 INT's. He's not afraid to run with the ball, either, racking up 561 yards. His only problem is he allowed himself to get sacked 28 times. But that is using the no-huddle, fast offense that has made Kinne's team one of the best offenses in the country.
Kinne will have returning senior Damaris Johnson, 5' 8" 170 lbs, to throw at again this season. Johnson caught 57 passes for 872 yards, aveaging 15.3 yards a reception. His long one was for 59 yards at Hawaii where he racked up 101 of those yards. He also rushed 55 times and averaged 10.2 yards each run. That is not to mention that this dual-threat receiver is NCAA's all purpose career yardage leader thru last season. Sophomore WR Thomas Roberson, 6' 3" 196 lbs, will be out there giving him some help in looking for a few of those passes.
Tulsa's backfield will be crowded with ball carriers. One will be sophomore RB Trey Watts, 5' 11" 201 lbs, son of Oklahoma politician and former Sooner QB J.C. Watts. RB JaTerian Douglas, 5' 11" 180 lbs, is his backup and the Bronco defenders can expect to see him at times out on the Blue chugging up-field. Last season Douglas averaged 7.8 yards a touch.
Boise State's defense will have it's hands full with Tulsa, but the Bronco defensive line was ranked in the top seven defenses in the nation last season. That offense will return largely intact, and anchored by All-Americans DT Billy Winn, 6' 4" 288 lbs, and DE Shea McClellin, 6' 3" 255 lbs. They will be backed up with two excellent linesmen in Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, 6' 3" 282 lbs, and Michael Atkinson, 6' 332 lbs. Other Bronco players who will be starting are DT Chase Baker, 6' 1" 298 lbs, DE Tyrone Crawford, 6' 4" 275 lbs; LBs Byron Hout, 6' 241 lbs, Aaron Tevis, 6' 3" 228 lbs; The Bronco squad also has two cornerbacks who will be downfield to cover Tulsa's deep threat: Jamor Taylor, 5' 11" 193 lbs, and Jerrell Gavins, 5' 9" 170 lbs. Safety George Iloka, 6' 3" 207 lbs, safety Cedric Febis, 6' 3" 197 lbs, and freshman safety Jeremy Ioane, 5' 11'' 195 lbs. are three more who you can expect to see doing their part on coverage. Hunter White, 5' 11" 224 lbs, will be in at nickel.
Tulsa's defense will be up against an aggressive Boise State offense, headed up by All-American and Heisman candidate Kellen Moore, 6' 190 lbs. And Moore has a number of good hands he can throw to. A few of those receivers are WR Tyler Shoemaker, 6' 1" 207 lbs, WR Gerald Hiwat, 6' 4" 189 lbs, and TE Kyle Efaw, 6' 4" 229 lbs. Joe Kellogg, 6' 2" 305 lbs, will be holding back the the defenders along with All-Americans OT Nate Potter, 6' 6" 293 lbs, and C Thomas Byrd, 5' 11" 284 lbs to give Moore time to pass. Defending the passer should be no problem for the Broncos who only allowed 5 sacks last season.
The backfield duties will be carried out by RB Doug Martin, 5' 9" 201 lbs, and D.J. Harper, 5' 11" 198 lbs. Martin was the leading rusher for the Broncos last season. He carried the ball 201 times for 1260 yards, and even caught 28 passes for 338 yards. That was an average of 12 yards a catch.
Brent Guy has revamped the Tulsa defense and made it more pass defense orientated. Gone is the old 3-3-5 scheme and the change could prove to be a problem for the Broncos. Guy's new defense incorporates a solid line of experienced players: DE's senior Tyrunn "Big-T" Walker, 6' 3" 265 lbs, and junior Cory Dorris, 6' 4" 275 lbs. Walker was a junior college All-American in 2009, and last year an All-Conference USA Honorable Mention. DT's junior Derrick Johnson, 6' 2" 282 lbs, and senior Darrell Zellars, 6' 2" 280 lbs, are two more. Senior MLB Curnelius Arnick, 6' 1" 230 lbs, is another big cog in the Golden Hurricane's defensive wheel. He was also an All-Conference USA Honorable Mention last season.
The last time the Broncos and the Golden Hurricane faced off was only two years ago. The 2009 game was played at Chapman Stadium in Tulsa. It was a close, tough, hard-fought football game. In the end, Tulsa went down 28-21 in front of 30,000 of their fans.
They'll be looking to return the favor this year.