Where: Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins, Colorado
When: Saturday, October 4th at 1:00 P.M. MST
TV: Online on the Mountain West Network
The Favorite: Colorado State by 15 (per Bovada)
The 3-1 Colorado State Rams return home on Saturday to Hughes Stadium to face the 1-3 Tulsa Golden Hurricane after a 24-21 comeback victory against the Boston College Eagles in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The Golden Hurricane lead the all-time series against the Rams 5-3, most recently defeating the Rams last season 30-27 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Last season's game was an offensive struggle for the Rams, but turnovers kept Colorado State in the game. It was a back and forth affair until Tulsa kicker Carl Salazar connected on a game winning 34 yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Tulsa is 1-3 entering their match-up with the Rams, with their lone victory coming in Week 1 in a 38-31 double overtime win over Tulane. Riding a three game losing streak and coming off of a 34-37 triple overtime loss to Texas State, the Golden Hurricane are looking to gain some momentum in their last non-conference game before conference play starts back up.
Tulsa's offense is led by sophomore quarterback Dane Evans, sophomore tailback James Flanders, junior wide out Keyarris Garrett and sophomore wide out Keevan Lucas.. Evans has 1145 yards and 8 touchdowns in four games for the Golden Hurricane, but has struggled with turnovers, throwing 7 interceptions so far on the year. Flanders leads the team with 51 carries for 251 yards on the year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but has yet to find the end zone. Lucas and Garrett have been a bright spot for the struggling offense. Lucas ranks in the top-20 in the nation in receiving yards with 439, top-10 in the nation in catches with 37, and in the top-10 in touchdowns with 5. Garrett has 21 receptions on the year for 314 yards.
The Golden Hurricane bring a defense that is young, but experienced. Tulsa has 20 defensive players on the roster with at least one start. Notable players on the defense for the Golden Hurricane include: senior free safety Demarco Nelson, who has 24 total tackles and the team's lone interception; junior strong safety Michael Mudoh who leads the team with 41 total tackles; sophomore linebacker Trent Martin who is second on the team in tackles with 37; and junior defensive end Derrick Alexander who leads the team with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on the season.
Three Keys to Victory for the Rams
Start Fast - Through four games, Tulsa has allowed opposing offenses to score 45 points in the first quarter and and 47 points in the second quarter, adding up to 92 first half points allowed. In addition, Tulsa has been shut out in the first quarter and has only scored 21 first half points this season. In comparison, the Rams have scored 52 first half points while allowing 61 first half points to opponents. In this game, the Rams need to take advantage of a team that starts slow and score early and often. If the Rams can get points on the board early and often, they will be able to take that momentum into the second half where they dominate the scoreboard.
Win the Turnover Battle- Colorado State has struggled so far this year creating turnovers. The Rams have forced 5 fumbles, but have yet to fall on one. In addition, Colorado State only has only 2 interceptions on the season. Similar to Colorado State, Tulsa has forced only 2 turnovers this season, with 1 fumble recovery and 1 interception. However, the Golden Hurricane have lost 2 fumbles and have thrown 8 interceptions. Playing a team that struggles with turnovers, it will be important for the Rams to force the Golden Hurricane to make mistakes.
Ground and Pound- The Rams need to establish the run game early. Tailbacks Dee Hart and Treyous Jarrells have been a great one-two punch for the Rams, gaining a combined 562 yards on the ground for 5 touchdowns. The Rams on the ground are averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Golden Hurricane have struggled against the run this season, allowing 5.7 yards per carry and 873 yards in their four games played. If Colorado State can establish the run game, it will open up holes in the defense for quarterback Garrett Grayson to pick apart the Tulsa secondary.