The 2012 Conference USA champions face the daunting task of taking down a top-15 team when the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-1, 0-0 CUSA) blow into Norman on Saturday.
Free safety Gabe Lynn and the Sooners are aware of running back Trey Watts and the rest of the talent Tulsa possesses.
To have the best opportunity to best the in-state rival, Tulsa will need to play flawlessly against the No. 14 Sooners (2-0, 1-0 Big 12) after coughing up five turnovers over the past two games. It also doesn’t help that the Golden Hurricane face an Oklahoma defense that has only given up seven points in the past two games, the fewest points allowed by a team that has played two FBS schools.
“Our defense was very fast and assignment wise (was) very sharp,” Bob Stoops said about the win over West Virginia. “About every position is faster than a year ago and that matters.”
On offense, Tulsa puts its faith on running back Trey Watts---son of former Sooner J.C. Watts---to move the ball downfield. Watts finished with 152 yards on 22 carries last week while also snagging a team-leading 58 yards on eight catches in the win.
To complement Watts’ performance, quarterback Cody Green is also starting to find his rhythm under center during last week‘s game. Against Bowling Green, the starter was only 17-of-34 for just 172 yards in the loss but redeemed his season-opening performance with three touchdowns against CSU that included the game-tying score midway through the fourth quarter.
And both of those players are listed high on the Sooners' defensive radar.
“I just remember their personnel from last year; both their quarterback and their running back are really good,” free safety Gabe Lynn said when asked about Tulsa’s offense during the media luncheon.
Green’s go to guy so far this season is receiver Derek Patterson, who has six receptions for 106 yards and two scores. The sophomore will have to step up after the Golden Hurricane lost premier receiver Keyarris Garrett to a broken leg in the final quarter against CSU.
But the team’s biggest fixes have to come from the defensive side of the ball.
From last year’s title team, Tulsa graduated 18 players, including seven all-conference members. The team was particularly hurt at the defensive line of scrimmage, having to replace four linemen from a unit that was consistently dominant on defense last year.
In the season opener, the defense gave up 34 points and 396 total yards to the Falcons while Tulsa's offense failed to get rolling.
However, some of the pieces started to fall into place in the come-from-behind victory over Colorado State. The defense in particular limited the Rams to -3 yards in the fourth quarter--surrendering just 275 total yards for the game--to secure the 30-27 win.
One key player on this year’s defense is linebacker Shawn Jackson, who needs one and a half tackles for loss and two sacks to match the school's records in the respective categories. Jackson finished last season as second-best in the FBS with 53 sacks.
Along with Jackson, safety Michael Mudoh has already made a name for himself on the Tulsa defense. Mudoh finished last week with a team-best eight tackles and one interception. He also had 17 tackles in the loss to Bowling Green during the previous week.
But the confident Sooners are ready to put Tulsa’s defense to the test.
“They play different type of coverages so I don’t know exactly what their game plan is going to be for us, but I’m excited to see what they bring to us on Saturday,” senior receiver Jalen Saunders said. “We might explode for a lot of passing yards or explode for a lot of rushing yards (depending on their defense).”