Let’s begin with Tulsa, who must face an Oklahoma team surely wanting to play a lot better than it did in a 16-7 win over West Virginia. And the Golden Hurricane will play the Sooners without top receiver Keyarris Garrett, lost for the season after breaking his leg against Colorado State. This is the third year Tulsa has lost a major wideout — losing Damaris Johnson in 2011 and Bryan Burnham in 2012 before Garrett’s injury last week.
Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said it’s just something the team has to deal with.
We’re learning to deal with it by experience, I guess. Every good team that I’ve been a part of has to have a next-man-up attitude at every position. Unfortunately, in those cases, the No. 1 receiver has been a guy who went down early in the season.
Staring down the 14th-ranked Sooners is a tall order for anyone, Blankenship said, but he hopes his defending Conference USA championship team has gotten past any feelings of intimidation with Oklahoma.
I would like to think so. We’ve got a lot of new faces, and hopefully they’ll follow the lead of our veteran players. We’ve been to Arkansas (most recently in 2008 and 2012). We’ve been to Notre Dame (in 2010). We’ve been to Oklahoma (most recently in 2009 and 2011). Most of our players don’t see (an OU road game) as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They just think it’s a great opportunity to play a first-class program, (in a game) that could give us notoriety.
UTSA got walloped last week 58-35 by Oklahoma State, scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys after the game already was out of hand. After lining up against a team he once coached in OSU, Roadrunners Coach Larry Coker will face a coach he has plenty of experience against, Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez. Coker and Rodriguez battled plenty when Coker was head coach at Miami and Rodriguez led West Virginia, and Coker said there are some things he can use from those past games.
Some of the stuff we keep are any of the fakes that we saw from West Virginia. The big thing that will help us is that we’ve practiced now and played against an offense of that style. The speed of that offense is the thing that’s really difficult. Oklahoma State is one of the fastest-moving teams in the country, a no-huddle team. They really caused some problems for us and that’s why they do it. Rich does the same thing at Arizona to speed up the offense. Hopefully this experience will help us adjust to that.
East Carolina — one of two C-USA teams, along with Marshall, that remain undefeated — gets its first big test of the year in Virginia Tech, the first of three ACC teams the Pirates play this season. The Hokies offense, ranked 96th in the FBS with 336.5 yards per game, has done VPI no favors this season. The defense, however, has been on the other side of the spectrum. Tech is fourth in the FBS at 184.0 yards per game, even holding defending national champion Alabama to 206 yards. ECU Coach Ruffin McNeill knows exactly what he’s getting with the VT defense and Coordinator Bud Foster.
Bud’s reputation precedes him and it’s well deserved. He’s one of the best in this business and has been for a long time. His defensive units have his personality stamped on them. They’ve always had athleticism on defense and length in the secondary with rangy and fast DB’s. Up front, their defensive-line play is very quick, strong and disruptive.
Beating VT could do wonders for the Pirates’ reputation, especially if it has any designs on busting into the big four BCS bowls. It will need wins over those ACC teams to do it, but McNeill is trying not to make Saturday’s game a life-or-death situation for his team.
We have three ACC teams on our schedule, but for us, what I told our team is to worry about what we can control. I want to play to get better this week. We want to win each game we play. There is no such thing as an ugly win. I want to make sure we keep developing. I’m looking forward to playing against a really great program and we’re looking forward to the challenge.