Tulsa was engaged in a shootout with UAB last week. They’re bound to be in a similar scenario this week when they meet Marshall Saturday in Huntington, W.V. The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. central time at Edwards Stadium.
The Golden Hurricane (4-1 overall, 2-0 in Conference USA) has the top defense in the league, but gave up some big plays in a 49-42 win over UAB last Saturday, although it did make key sacks and fumble recoveries that contributed to the victory.
But it can’t afford to have any breakdowns this week, because the Thundering Herd has an offense that can put some points on the board.
“We got as big challenge ahead of us,” Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “I’m sure, arguably one of the best offenses in the country, but certainly, statistically, in our league.”
The Tulsa defense against the Marshall offense will be a key matchup in the battle.
The Hurricane is ranked No. 1 in rushing and total defense, having allowed 104.6 and 384 yards per game, respectively.
The Thundering Herd are tops in the conference in passing and total offense, averaging 394.6 and 555.6 yards per game. They entered the game having put up 41 points on Big 10 member Purdue. Marshall did lose the game, however, 51-41. It’s last conference game was a high-scoring 54-51 win against Rice, which came in double overtime on Sept. 22.
“Very impressive for Marshall,” Blankenship said. “I think they’re much improved from a year ago. They’ve kind of changed their personality from the way they’re going about business.”
The passing connection of quarterback Rakeem Cato (6-0, 182, sophomore) and wide receiver Tommy Shuler (5-8, 187, sophomore), both of Miami, are the key threats to the Thundering Herd’s air attack.
Cato has passed for 1,920 yards thus far this season with 187 completions. Shuler has caught 52 passes. All are first for their respective categories. Cato has thrown 15 touchdown passes, which is tied for third in the league.
The Thundering Herd are all about business, Blankenship said. They average 92 snaps per game and have a 70 percent completion percentage.
“I think you give them a lot of credit. They’re very well-coached, they’re doing a good job with what they’re doing on offense,” Blankenship said.
Hurricane Quick Hits
* TU is 19-6 all-time against Conference USA East foes.
* TU leads the all-time series against Marshall, 3-0. The Golden Hurricane won last year’s meeting in a 59-17 rout at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium, but won the last meeting in Huntington, W.V., 38-35 late in 2008.