Through three weeks of the college football season, the University of Tulsa finds itself among nine FBS teams looking for their first win.
The Hurricane might be the toughest winless team in the country, having been significantly shorthanded for the opener against UC Davis and putting together impressive outings against Power Five opponents Oklahoma State and Ohio State on the road.
“We’re getting really close now,” coach Philip Montgomery said after Saturday’s 41-20 loss against the ninth-ranked Buckeyes. “We’ve just got to get over the hump.
“It’s been a tough, tough start here, but I’m encouraged in the way that we played today. I thought our guys played their tails off, played hard and gave us a chance there late and just needed a break here or there.”
TU opens a rare three-game homestand at 4 p.m. Saturday against Arkansas State, a team that lost 52-3 at Washington in Week 3 but leads the series with the Hurricane 3-2. The Red Wolves won the last meeting 29-20 in 2018.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to look at them at all, but I know they’re always a talented team and they’re going to be well-coached,” Montgomery said. “So we’ve got to come out and really be clicking and making sure that we’re prepared, our guys are locked in and going and making things happen.”
Before turning attention to that game, here is a look at three things we learned from the game against Ohio State:
After throwing for 201 yards in his first start, quarterback Davis Brin had that much success in the first half at Ohio State and finished with 428 passing yards in what could be a breakout performance.
“It just seems like he is growing every week,” Montgomery said. “I thought he was seeing the field really well and I thought we were doing a decent job of mixing things up from the standpoint of shallows, working sideline to sideline, working cross routes, pushing the ball down the field when we had opportunities. I thought our receivers did a nice job and trying to find separation and find holes to sit in and work.”
Brin’s 54 passes are the most for a Hurricane quarterback in the 74-game Montgomery era. Dane Evans, the top passer in program history, twice threw 51 passes in road games against ranked opponents (Oklahoma, 2015; Houston, 2016).
“I didn’t realize it until I just saw this sheet, but we threw it 54 times,” Montgomery said after the game. “And that dude, he stepped up and did a nice job. You look back over the history that I’ve been here very, very few times have I thrown it 54 times in a game.”
Injuries a factor
Keylon Stokes, who has led TU in receiving three consecutive years, made the trip to Columbus but didn’t play as a result of an apparent injury. Two Hurricane defensive starters — safety Cristian Williams and linebacker Treyvon Reeves — missed another game for undisclosed reasons.
Further complicating matters were injuries to the offensive line throughout Saturday’s game. When starters Chris Paul, Tyler Smith and Bryce Bray were hurt, TU relied on redshirt freshmen Jaden Muskrat and Dillon Wade in the fourth quarter while trying to complete the comeback.
“(The offensive line) had a couple of penalties here and there, but give them credit for battling,” Montgomery said. “I’m proud of the way they came together, made some lanes in there for us to run the football late at times and trying to give Davis a little bit of time for us to be continuing to try to move that ball down the field.”
TU punching above its weight
According to ESPN, TU has covered the spread in 10 consecutive games against ranked opponents, the longest streak in the nation. In back-to-back weeks, the Hurricane was within a touchdown of a Power Five team on the road.
“We are right on the edge of getting over the hump,” cornerback Tyon Davis said. “It’s coming sooner rather than later. We’re so close it hurts, but I know we’re close. We’re so close.”
Ohio State put up 508 yards of offense and TU wasn’t far behind with 501. The Hurricane defense also forced two turnovers, an interception and a fumble.
“We knew they were a good team coming in,” Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud said. “They do some funky things on defense to where if you get greedy you can cause turnovers and that’s kind of what happened.”