Limping into its only week without a game, the University of Tulsa is slightly beyond the midpoint of its season.
The 3-4 Hurricane has had disappointing losses, thrilling victories and plenty of drama along the way.
Here is an assessment of the team ahead of the open date and the remaining five games:
Offensive MVP: WR Josh Johnson
Johnson has emerged as the go-to receiver, leading the Hurricane with 43 catches for 582 yards and three touchdowns. He has three 100-yard outings this season and is averaging 83.1 yards per game.
Defensive MVP: CB Travon Fuller
In his first year as a Texas A&M transfer, Fuller is tied for fifth nationally in passes defended (10) and sixth in passes broken up (eight). He also has two interceptions.
Special teams MVP: K Zack Long
Long is 9-for-9 on field goals with three makes beyond 40 yards and 19-of-19 on extra-point attempts. He also has had four touchbacks on kickoffs.
Numbers to know
4: touchdowns scored by opponents on punt or kick returns
82.3: penalty yards per game, the fifth-most nationally
457.3: yards of offense per game, ranking 22nd in FBS
10: interceptions thrown by quarterback Davis Brin
46.9: average yards per punt by Lachlan Wilson
TU has been up-and-down since the start, losing to FCS team UC Davis in the opener while having key players suspended and turning in impressive outings in losses at Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Since then, the Hurricane has prevailed in three of its last four games, but the lone loss, a 45-10 thumping by Houston, was a doozy. The three wins were by seven points or fewer.
Sept. 18, 2021 video. Tulsa lost 41-20 after leading early at No. 9 Ohio State. Video courtesy/TU Athletics
It took some time for him to get going, but Davis Brin has done some good things in his first season as the starter. He's looked comfortable for stretches when the protection has been there, and his passing total is 273.6 yards per game. Other moments have been shaky, leading to 10 interceptions compared to 10 touchdowns, and he has been sacked 14 times.
Injuries and suspensions have hit the defense hard, resulting in only three players starting all seven games. Seventh-year safety Cristian Williams has appeared in only four games, the same as linebackers Treyvon Reeves and Jon-Michael Terry. Cullen Wick, who racked up 7.5 tackles for lost yardage in the first five games, has missed the last two weeks at defensive end, and safety Kendarin Ray is out for an indefinite period with a foot injury.
Brooks moving on up
Union grad Shamari Brooks, who scored the go-ahead touchdown in last week's win at USF, has moved into the top five career rushers in program history and will have the chance to continue to climb the record books in the second half of the season. He has 3,261 rushing yards, trailing rushing leader D'Angelo Brewer by 656 yards.
TU has five regular-season games left: Navy (Oct. 29), at Cincinnati (Nov. 6), at Tulane (Nov. 13), Temple (Nov. 20) and at SMU (Nov. 27). To achieve bowl eligibility for a second year in a row, the Hurricane will need to win three of those games. Before the 2020 season, the team had gone three consecutive seasons without a bowl appearance.
Eyes on Gillespie
By the midpoint of the season, five college head-coaching jobs had become available for 2022: Washington State, LSU, USC, Georgia Southern and UConn. Plenty more jobs will be vacant by mid-December. Given his success in seven seasons at TU including three years as defensive coordinator, expect Joseph Gillespie to be contacted for some of the openings. In 2020, he was selected linebackers coach of the year by Football Scoop.