Minnesota-Tulsa Football Preview

The Minnesota Golden Gophers will open the 2005 football season against the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Thursday on ESPN2. The Gophers, who finished 7-5 last season, will face Tulsa (4-8 in 2004) at 9:15 p.m. at Skelly Stadium (35,542) in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This is the second meeting between Tulsa and Minnesota. The previous meeting came in the 2003 season opener when Tulsa visited Minnesota for Steve Kragthorpe's debut as the Hurricanes head coach. The Gophers won 49-10 at the Metrodome on Aug. 30, 2003.

Tulsa has a 36-12 (75%) record in season openers at Skelly Stadium. Kragthorpe is entering his third season at Tulsa. In his first season, after losing the opener to the Gophers, he led the Hurricanes to the nation's biggest turnaround in the 2003 season with an 8-5 record, a second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference and the school's first bowl appearance in 12 seasons in the Humanitarian Bowl.

The Golden Hurricanes are led by senior kickoff return specialist/wide receiver Ashlan Davis, who has been selected to several preseason All-America football teams as a kickoff return specialist. Davis earned All-America honors after establishing two NCAA records for kickoff returns. He set the single-season record for touchdowns on kickoff returns with five, and also established the record for returning a kick for a touchdown in consecutive games with four. Davis' kickoff returns for touchdowns covered 100 yards vs. Boise State, 94 yards vs. Nevada, 83 yards against Rice, 96 yards vs. SMU and 74 yards against UTEP. Davis caught 30 passes for 462 yards and one score. He will be counted on even more as a receiver this season as the other remaining receivers caught just two passes for 17 yards.

Garrett Mills, a 6-foot-2, 232-pound senior tight end has been an all-WAC performer the past two years. He had a team-leading 51 catches for 560 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Tulsa uses a pro set offense that returns six starters and ranked 40th in scoring last season, but has a new signal caller.

Sophomore Paul Smith (Owasso, Okla.) will get the starting nod at quarterback for the Hurricanes. Smith and red-shirt freshman David Johnson competed to replace the graduated James Kilian, who threw for 2,247 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

Smith sat out last year after playing in eight games as a true freshman. He completed 62 of his passes for 297 yards and one touchdown.

Senior running back Uril Parrish became only the 11th player in school history last year to reach the 1,000-yard plateau in a single season. Parrish gained a team-leading 1,064 yards for an 88.7 average.

Brandon Diles, 5-foot-11, 212-pound junior running back, was second on the team in rushing with 597 yards and seven touchdowns on 124 carries for a 4.8-yard average per attempt.

The Hurricanes return three offensive line starters.

The key to the Hurricanes' success could be their rushing defense. They allowed 211 rushing yard per game and 4.7 rushing yard per carry. They use a 3-3-5 formation.

Nick Bunting, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker leads the Tulsa defense, which returns six starters. Bunting was named to the Butkus and Bednarik Award Preseason Watch Lists this year. He had 88 tackles to rank second on the team last year. Bunting was named WAC Freshman of the Year in 2003.

Senior kicker Brad DeVault ranks sixth on the school's career list with 28 field goals and 10th on the all-time scoring list with 177 points (28 FGs and 93 PATs). He made 12 of 16 field goals.

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