Preview | Tulsa v. Fresno State
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2–1) travels west to face former WAC rival, Fresno State (1–2), on Saturday. Tulsa is looking to win their second game in a row, and build momentum as they head into American Athletic Conference action, next week. Tulsa has yet to win in Fresno, but this season, the Hurricane have the opportunity to come home with a victory.
On paper, these offenses seem fairly evenly matched. Tulsa averages 397.7 yards of offense/game, while Fresno checks in at 334.0. The difference lies in putting points on the board, where the Bulldogs come in averaging only 19.3 points/game. Tulsa is averaging 35.3 points/game, even after scoring only three points two weeks ago, against Ohio State.
The Golden Hurricane are led by senior Quarterback, Dane Evans. Evans has thrown for 607 yards and four touchdowns, three of which have gone to wide receiver, Keevan Lucas. Their numbers are potentially down a little, as they have played minimally in two blowout wins.
Redshirt Freshman, Chason Virgil, is the Bulldogs’ signal-caller, making his fourth career start. Last week against Toledo, Virgil passed for 190 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85-yard strike to Jamire Jordan. Fresno and Virgil are 1–0 at home, and will look to use that to their advantage Saturday.
Three games into the season, Tulsa has shown a marked improvement on the defensive side of the ball. So far, they have given up 12 less points/game than in 2015. The Golden Hurricane have also forced six turnovers, with all but one leading to a Tulsa score. An opportunistic defense could pay huge dividends in a road game Tulsa needs to win.
The Bulldogs have been slightly less stubborn on the defensive side, allowing 403 yards/game. Their pass defense is a strength, however, which will match up well with Tulsa’s pass-happy approach. The interior, however, is allowing 235 yards/game rushing, which could lead to Tulsa to leaning heavily on running backs D’Angelo Brewer and James Flanders.
Who to Watch — Tulsa
Brewer enters the contest averaging 94.0 yards/game, and a suspect Fresno defensive line could mean a huge day for the Junior. In week one, Tulsa was able to exploit fellow MWC opponent, San Jose State, with over 300 yards on the ground. If Brewer can get things going early, it might free up Dane Evans and his speedy receivers on the outside.
The Senior linebacker leads the team with 23 tackles, including five in limited playing time against North Carolina A&T. Martin could have a big impact facing the inexperienced Virgil, especially if given the opportunity to apply pressure.
Who to Watch — Fresno State
All eyes will be on the redshirt freshman to see how he continues to mature. Last week, he had glimpses of extreme promise and inexperience. Having been sacked 11 times already, how poised he stays in the pocket could be a factor in Fresno having an opportunity to win this game.
The defense as a whole will be something to watch in this game. Against Toledo, the Bulldog defense gave up seven plays of 20 yards or more. Against a quick-strike team, like Tulsa, how the defense makes tackles in space will be huge for the Bulldogs to get the upset.
Game Changer — Dane Evans
Watching Dane Evans progress has been great for Golden Hurricane fans. He has been stellar in his two home games, but in Tulsa’s lone loss, Evans was unable to play effectively. Granted, it was against #3 Ohio State, but still, the Hurricane want to see Evans perform well on the road, as a big game in Houston looms a couple weeks away.