TU not afraid to tackle top teams

No one can say that Tulsa backs off scheduling tough football teams.

On August 31, the Golden Hurricane will travel to Stillwater to take on No. 11 Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. (on Fox 1). The Thursday night game will be broadcast nationally and the stakes are high for TU.

A win would be a great way to launch a new season with a new quarterback and it would vault Tulsa into the Top 25.

Last year, Tulsa traveled to No. 4 Ohio State and in 2015, TU nearly pulled an upset against then-No. 16 Oklahoma in Norman. TU hosted Oklahoma in 2014.

Coach Philip Montgomery is confident his 2017 team can overcome the loss of record-setting quarterback Dane Evans (now with the Philadelphia Eagles) and stay among the top offensive teams in the nation.

Evans became the all-time passing leader with 11,680 yards, total offense with 11,752 yards, TD passes with 84, completions with 904, attempts with 1,567, 300+ passing games with 16 and 400+ passing games with four.

“Offensively, we’re progressing a little bit each and every day, and that’s what we’ve wanted to do,” Montgomery said during fall practice.”We’ve been effective in both our run and pass game, trying to expand on some things, guys have been able to grasp the new things we’ve plugged in.”

On August 9, Tulsa had their first scrimmage.

“We added officials and down and distance situations, so the big things that I wanted to see was our guys flying around and how we handled different situations within the scrimmage,” said Montgomery.

“I thought we had really good energy. The defense was able to get some 3-and-outs, we got some stops, and forced a couple turnovers. Offensively, I thought we did some good things. We extended some drives, had some long drives and ran the ball effectively. We have to continue to keep working the passing game. I thought we saw some bright spots today, but still have some room to grow.”

An unseasonably cool August has provided welcome relief for practice.

“For fall camp, having some days like this is great, but on the flipside of it, as a coach, you want some hot days so we can get ready for the upcoming season –– you get into September and those games will be warm, so we have to be prepared and in shape for that heat,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said quarterbacks Chad President and Luke Skipper have become more comfortable as camp has progressed.

“Our quarterbacks are becoming more comfortable each practice with those guys in front of them, and I think our D-line is pretty good this year,” Montgomery said. “We’re getting a lot of different looks from a pressure standpoint, and those guys up front offensively have to be on their ‘Ps’ and ‘Qs’ when it comes to pass protection. The competition from the defense is really good, but I think our quarterbacks understand that those guys up front know what they’re doing and have a ton of confidence in those guys to get the job done.

“I like the way we’re competing. I think we’re throwing the ball really well right now with both of them. So now it’s just the fine-tuning of it, and figure out the guy who’s going to be able to execute at a high level.”

Tulsa’s offensive line was instrumental in the Golden Hurricane rushing for at least 300 yards in a school-record eight games. The excellent line play could help offset the inexperience at quarterback.

Four of those starters return to anchor the offensive front in 2017, including the left side of the line with senior tackle Evan Plagg and junior left guard Tyler Bowling, as well as junior offensive center Chandler Miller and junior right tackle Willie Wright.

Zac Uhles, who has played in 31 career games with four starts coming at center, right tackle and left tackle, is locked in at the starting right guard spot.

“Coach Bloesch has done a great job with the guys up front. They play with the right mindset and attitude, and they know how important they are to our football team. They lead the charge for us, and they’ll always be like that,” said Montgomery.

The Tulsa at USF game on November 16 has been set for 7 p.m. from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game will be aired on ESPN.