With the bye week in the rear view mirror, Bill Blankenship and the Golden Hurricane have their sights set on a Thursday night showdown with Iowa State. It will mark the third time in the past 13 months the two teams have met and for Tulsa it's a chance to win the tiebreaker on home soil. Blankenship met the media on Tuesday; here's what the coach had to say.
On the Cyclones:
"I think we're in the same boat. We're two teams that are coming off a successful run a year ago and I think we're both in search of the next win. I think we both desperately need to get back on track and I have no idea what's going on in their world, but I can certainly picture that Coach Rhoads and their staff feel the same way about their players: that they need to get over the hump."
On the difference between these two teams versus the two that played in last season's Liberty Bowl (a game TU won 31-17):
"I think there are a lot of differences. Philosophically you don't see much change in either one of us, but there are a lot of personnel changes. It's just an estimate but I'd go so far as to say there'd be 30 new faces on the field, with both teams, maybe more than that, that were not an active, big part of the Liberty Bowl. So, while there are those that carry over…there will be a lot of new faces."
On the Thursday night schedule:
"If you have to have one that gets you out of sync, I don't mind having an extra two or three days to prepare and an extra two or three days when we're done. So you put it right in the middle of a bye week, it's a pretty good thing to do if you're going to have a Thursday night game. The exposure will be good; it'll be a national audience."
On the state of the secondary:
"We all knew we were going to play some young players. We were assuming we had a talented safety, a three-year starter back in DeMarco that we don't have now. So we have a completely brand new secondary right now. Nobody back there has played a lot of games, but I think they've held up pretty well except for the exposure we got with the very athletic Oklahoma receiving corps. But we've got to play better. This is Game 4 so we've got to start settling in."
On the importance of BCS-caliber games:
"I think one of the measuring sticks for this program over the last several years has been what's called ‘BCS Wins.' Notre Dame was our last ‘BCS Win' until you get to the Liberty Bowl last year with Iowa State. The fact that they're a Big 12 school, the fact that they've had some big wins themselves over the years, that's big motivation for us. I think that we will always try to measure ourselves against the BCS-caliber teams, so this is the next opportunity to see what we can do."
On losing stars Keyarris Garrett and Demarco Nelson:
"It's always a blow to your team. There's no question about that. It's something you deal with. You cannot act like it didn't happen, you can't act like it doesn't matter, but every good team that I've been around can flip the page pretty quickly."
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 Thursday night with Fox Sports 1 televising the game.