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Game Preview: Boise State vs. Tulsa

Boise State is 2-0 and is finally set to appear in front of the hometown fans on September 24 when it hosts the Tulsa in non-conference action.  After three weeks that included away games against Georgia and Toledo, and a bye week in between, the Broncos will play their home opener against Conference-USA's Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-2). That game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network at 6 PM MT. 

This could very well be one of the toughest games Boise State might face this year.  Tulsa is not going to be intimidated by the Broncos #4 standings in the polls.  In their opening game of the season, the Golden Hurricane went to Norman, Oklahoma and faced off against the #1 Oklahoma Sooners, then traveled to New Orleans to give Tulane a good pounding, before taking on #8 Oklahoma State last week.

If you think Boise State is going to blow them out, you better think again.  Sure the Broncos are 5-0 all-time against Tulsa, but in their last meeting in 2009, Tusla came up The Blue and gave the then #5 ranked Broncos all they could handle.  In a hard-fought contest where the Golden Hurricane put up 295 total yards to Boise State's 380, they forced two turnovers.  Boise State survived a late scare from Tulsa to escape with a narrow 28-21 victory. 

Now fast forward two years:

In their season opener against Oklahoma September 3rd, Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne, 6-2 234 lbs, and his offense went right after the Sooners.  The Hurricane lost  47-14, but not before Kinne went 18 of 33 and put up 271 passing yards on the Okie defenders.   They finished with an honorable 400 yards of total offense against the top ranked team in the country.  It should be noted here Kinne is the Conference USA preseason offensive player of year and for good reason: he earned the title last year by throwing for 3,650 yards and 31 touchdown passes.  And Kinne is no stranger to Boise State, either.  He was the Tulsa QB in the 2009 game. 

In their second game this season, Tulsa made the trip down to New Orleans to play Tulane in the Louisiana Superdome.  Tulsa's defense only allowed a single field goal in their 31-3 victory romp over the Green Wave.  The Tulsa defenders held Tulane to just 235 yards of total offense and only 59 rushing yards.  Kinne was 21-of-29 for 241 yards and three touchdowns, and his team finished that game with 412 total yards. 

Last Saturday's game against #8 Oklahoma State did not go so well. It didn't get started until after midnight and wasn't over until 3:35 a.m. It was lost before the clock struck one AM and Kinne was knocked out of the game with a knee injury in the first quarter after a late hit.   Kalen Henderson, a redshirt freshman QB, took over for Kinne, but he was no match for the powerful Cowboys. He threw for 2 TD's, but also tossed 3 critical interceptions. It didn't help that the Golden Hurricane were without suspended star receiver Damaris Johnson, a second-team All-American last season and the NCAA’s career record holder in all-purpose yards and kickoff returns. Oklahoma State closed out the early morning game 59-33, then woke up the crowd before the roosters started crowing so they could all get home before dawn.

At present, it is not known if either Kinne or Johnson will be back for Saturday night's action in Boise. Without either one they will be at a serious disadvantage.  But the Golden Hurricane still have a number of weapons they can use in place of Johnson. Bryan Burnham, 6-2 205 lbs., is apparently turning into the go-to guy at receiver.  And both Wille Carter, 6-2 221 lbs, and Jordan James, 6-2 205 lbs have been making their names heard over the stadium loudspeakers by making some great catches.

The Tulsa offense has three fine RB's in Trey Watts, 5-11 203 lbs, Alex Singleton, 6-1 250 lbs, and Ja'Terian Douglas, 5-11 180 lbs.  All three are hard-chargers who have been grinding up the gridiron with tough, solid running. Douglas had 173 yards rushing last week, including another long touchdown run from 42 yards out, and Trey Watts added 159 yards rushing with two lost fumbles. Both rushing totals were career-highs against one of the top 10 teams in the nation.

The Broncos will be trotting out QB Kellen Moore and his own arsenal of receivers. The Heisman candidate went into the Glass Bowl last Friday and broke Toledo's back, completing 32-of-42 passes for 455 yards, and pitching five touchdowns to carry Boise State to a 40-15 victory.  WR 's Matt Miller, 6-3 215 lbs, Mitch Burroughs, 5-9 187 lbs, Kirby Moore, 6-2 205 lbs, and Gabe Linehan, 6-2 232 lbs, are only a few of the receivers who will be running around the Tulsa backfield looking to catch some of Moore's passes.  TE Tyler Shoemaker, 6-1 213 lbs, who accounted for three scores last week, will also be one of Moore's targets Saturday along with TE Kyle Efaw, 6-4 242 lbs.  Moore has proven he can spread it around, and it is going to be very hard for the Tulsa defenders to cover such a wide range of capable receivers.  

But the Tulsa defensive coordinator is Brent Guy, the former head coach at Utah State and a former foe who is very familiar with the Broncos attack.  He will be looking for a crack in the BSU offense that his players might be able to take advantage of.  And that crack could be in the Bronco running game. RB Doug Martin, 5-9 215 lbs, had to struggle to get any traction on the ground last week.  His counter-part, RB D.J. Harper, 5-9 210 lbs, ended up carrying the day in the churning and burning department.  But while strugging to run last week, Martin revealed just what a dual-threat Guy's defense is faced with. In one play Martin dashed through Toledo's defense on a screen pass for a 71-yard score.  He was also the Broncos leading receiver for the evening.  This week Guy and his Tulsa D-line can expect both Martin and Harper to reestablish their running game.

And first year head coach Bill Blankenship is no fool, either.  He knows that offensively, the Tulsa squad will need to bring their A-game against Boise State's renowned defensive line.  That defense is anchored by a couple of big, tough All-Americans who mean business. The entire D-team is noted for consistantly making the big plays that control momentum.  Last week DT Chase Baker, 6-1 296 lbs, intercepted a pass at the Boise State 11-yard line and stalled a drive.  Strong safety Cedric Febis stalled another when he helped force a fumble at the Bronco 9.  Febis, it should be noted, is back in the lineup after sitting out the Georgia game over a question of eligibility.  While he didn't start last week, but he still finished with four tackles and that fumble recovery.

Blankenship will also be focusing pressure on Boise State's special teams.  Two different kickers, starter Dan Goodale,  5-9 183 lbs, and junior college transfer Michael Frisina, 5-5 153 lbs, both failed to shine last game.  Each missed an extra point, invoking memories of the Nevada debacle last season.  Still another special teams play was botched that involved a faked field-goal.

But those Bronco errors aside, Blankenship will need all his players on board for this one.  And they need to play flawlessly to get the win.

My final score  prediction:  Boise State 48, Tulsa 27.