On the other sideline: Back on track?

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

There is only one word that comes to mind when looking back on Tulsa’s season-inconsistent. Despite the mediocrity, there have been plenty of positives to the Golden Hurricane’s run-of-the-mill year.

Tulsa suffered an embarrassing 49-24 loss to BYU early in the season, but regrouped itself and rattled off six consecutive victories. The team’s season ended on a somewhat sour note, though, with three straight losses to Houston, Rice and Southern Methodist before finishing the season with a victory over Tulane.

Through it all, Tulsa’s offense has averaged a respectable 28.9 points per game. The Golden Hurricane’s steady mixture of run-and-pass has kept opponents on their collective heels this year.

Paul Smith acts as the Hurricane’s field general, passing for an average of 214 yards per game this season. The dual-threat junior has passed for 15 touchdowns and has run for six more on his way to Conference-USA second team accolades.

Leading the ground attack for Tulsa is junior running back Courtney Tennial, who has rushed for 809 yards and 14 touchdowns. Tennial also has 163 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air.

Although Tennial pitches in, Idris Moss and Ryan Bugg carry most of the receiving weight for the Hurricane. Moss leads the team with 54 catches for 772 yards, but has only one touchdown. On the other side of the offense, Bugg has only 573 receiving yards, but leads the team with four touchdown receptions.

“It’s a balanced team; they like to run the ball, throw the ball, quarterback’s efficient, receivers are talented, make plays, a lot of screen game,” said Ute senior DB Eric Weddle. “This is going to be a tough match-up, but we’re ready for it.”

Defensively, the Golden Hurricane comes into the game with one of the most formidable defenses in Conference-USA. Five of its starters recently received first-team conference honors and one of its members, senior linebacker Nick Bunting, was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Bunting has started for the conference’s premier defense since he was a freshman and has won conference accolades in each of the four years he has played. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker registered 65 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble for the Golden Hurricane this year.

Tulsa’s defensive line is buoyed by the play of Robert Latu. From his defensive end position, Latu has recorded 34 tackles and a team-high six sacks on the way to his own first-team conference selection.

In the secondary, senior Bobby Blackshire has done an admirable job from his safety position, recording 54 tackles and a team-best three interceptions for the Golden Hurricane. Last week, Blackshire received all-conference honors for the second consecutive year.

Tulsa has had no problem putting up points once it gets past midfield this year, be it through the air, on the ground or off the right foot of kicker Jarod Tracy. Tracy has been nearly perfect this year, connecting on 11 of his 12 field goal attempts with a long of 50 yards.

With a roster packed full of seniors, the Golden Hurricane surely hopes to go out on a high note against the Utes. It got the ball rolling at the end of its regular season with a win over Tulane, but will need to bring its A game in order to beat the Utes.

The Associated Press

Tulsa’s Courtney Tennial romps to a touchdown, leaving Tulane’s Evan Lee in his wake during the second quarter the Golden Hurricane’s 38-3 win Nov. 24.