Scouting report: Tulsa offense

The last time BYU's defense went up against the Tulsa offense, things didn't go so well, and that's putting it mildly. This time around, when BYU faces Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl on Friday, the Cougars aim to play much better. But although their players and coaches are different, the Golden Hurricane can still put up a lot points.

"They got good athletes, but I feel that we have good athletes too," corner Preston Hadley said about the Tulsa offense. "So, it should be a good matchup … They're a team that isn't one to look over or anything like that, so it should just be a battle."

Maybe the Cougars did look over Tulsa when they last played in 2007, but whatever the reason, they got lit up by the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa racked up 595 total yards, 490 of which came through the air, and scored 55 points (including a defensive touchdown). BYU actually had a big edge in first downs (36 to 23) and third-down conversion rate (46 percent to 23 percent), but Tulsa didn't need sustained drives because it got big play after big play.

Calling plays for Tulsa at the time was offensive guru Gus Malzahn, who was Auburn's offensive coordinator when the Tigers won the national championship last season.

Coach Mendenhall referenced that 55-47 shootout against Tulsa to his current team only a little bit, enough that his players are aware of BYU's defensive failings.

"We're a really good defense, so we're not gonna let them put up points like that on us," said Hadley.

That 2007 Cougar defense wasn't anything to scoff at, however, as it was 10th nationally with only 307.2 yards allowed per game. But as Mendenhall and his team have noted, the past isn't really relevant. Both teams have different players now, and Tulsa has a different coaching staff.

Nevertheless, while Tulsa's offense isn't identical to what BYU saw in 2007, Mendenhall said it kept a lot of the best parts. According to Mendenhall, the biggest challenge is the offense's versatility.

Tulsa is able to attack the perimeter effectively with different sweeps. The Golden Hurricane will also utilize quick screens and a lot of play action, and can go over the top.

Tulsa is 23rd nationally in both yards per game (454.4) and points per game (34.1). Its offense is 41st with 249.8 passing yards per game and 24th with 204.6 rushing yards per game. While those are mostly impressive stats, the Golden Hurricane are only 54th in third-down conversion rate with 39.6 percent (BYU incidentally is first with 51.8 percent).

Tulsa averaged 40.6 points in its eight wins and 27.8 points in its four losses. Those losses all came to teams ranked in the top 10 at the time, but of those teams, only Boise State was ranked in the top 60 in total defense (18th). Only one of Tulsa's eight victories was by less than 17 points, a 24-17 win at UCF. That is the same score as BYU's win over UCF, the lone common opponent between the two.

Personnel

Tulsa's offense starts with 6-foot-2-inch, 234-pound senior quarterback G.J. Kinne, who transferred from the University of Texas. This season he's completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,876 yards and 25 touchdowns, and has thrown 12 interceptions. Kinne is a threat to run the ball, having tallied 405 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

In terms of Kinne's mobility as a quarterback, Mendenhall said he is similar to TCU's Casey Pachall or New Mexico State's Matt Christian and Travaughn Colwell. Mendenhall also said he is similar to BYU's own Riley Nelson in his ability to extend plays.

"We haven't seen very many players – the first player to him – get him down," said Mendenhall about Kinne. "He's very elusive, and it's not that he's flat-out fast. He just has this really nice feel for making people miss, and I'm just impressed. He's confident, he's poised, he's tough, and he knows where the first down markers are and he just finds a way to move his team."

"He's good … he moves well in the pocket," said Hadley. "So he's just a smart player. If anything stands out to me, he's patient and he lets routes develop and stuff."

Kinne's main wideout target is 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound junior Bryan Burnham. He has 50 catches for 737 yards and eight touchdowns this season. According to Hadley, Tulsa will try and get Burnham in single coverage and throw it up top to him.

But Tulsa's leading receiver is actually 6-foot-2-inch, 221-pound junior fullback Willie Carter. Less a traditional fullback and more of an h-back that is moved around and used in different spots, he only has 13 carries on the year but has 61 catches for 868 yards and seven touchdowns.

"They keep it pretty simple with the way they throw the ball, just hitches and comebacks and stuff like that, and play action," said Hadley.

Tulsa's top two rushers are 5-foot-11-inch, 203-pound Trey Watts (843 yards, three touchdowns) and 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound Ja'Terian Douglas (884 yards, four touchdowns), both sophomores. Watts averages 5.7 yards per carry, while Douglas averages 8.2 yards.

"I'd say they're more of a run-first team, so I think they have similarities to Texas as far as the way they run the ball," said Hadley.

Stopping the run will be one of BYU's main focuses.

"Stopping the run is what we do," said Hadley. "We can't be dominant or win games if we can't stop the run. If we stop the run, we'll be able to dictate kind of what they do and stick to our game plan. If we can do that, we can throw them out of their game plan, and that's when we'll start having fun."


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