The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will look to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Conference USA play when they travel to Birmingham to face UAB. The Blazers come in at 0-3, but two of those three were to South Carolina and Ohio State.
The Hurricane come into this game as a 17-point favorite, but don't write off UAB just yet. Here are five goals for the Hurricane to accomplish on Saturday.
5. Re-establish the run game
160 yards, 4.7 avg. 364 yards, 6.6 avg. 333 yards, 7.4 avg. Those are the rushing totals for the first three games of Tulsa's season. Last week, the Hurricane only managed 126 rushing yards on 43 carries, averaging a poor 2.9 avg. That's a significantly lower total than they managed against a Big 12 defense on the road to open the season.
The running game is what makes TU's offense so hard to defend. The three-headed attack of Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas and Alex Singleton is explosive and dynamic, and should never be held under three yards-per-carry by a Mountain West team.
Look for the Hurricane to focus on the ground game this Saturday and run all over the Blazers.
4. Build off last week's defensive performance
The Golden Hurricane defense was stellar against Fresno State, keeping the Bulldogs scoreless after the first quarter. While TU's offense struggled to take care of the ball, it was the Hurricane defense that kept the team in the game. Junior linebacker Shawn Jackson played his first game of the season and made a major impact with 11 tackles.
UAB is a good candidate to see another great defensive performance. The Blazers haven't scored an offensive touchdown since week one and rank 118th among FBS teams in points scored this season.
Defense was never expected to be the strong point of this Tulsa team, but if they can produce results like Saturday's, this team could be dominant in C-USA.
3. Get the first road win out of the way
This isn't as much a goal they can really focus on directly achieving, but rather a result of reaching the other four goals on this list.
In the Golden Hurricane's only other road game of the season, things melted down quickly. There were turnovers, miscommunications, and long stretches of bad play. Much of that could be attributed to it being the first game of the season or that Iowa State is pretty good, but the fact is it happened on the road.
If the Hurricane loses on Saturday, it makes their trip to Marshall in two weeks a little scarier. It's important to go ahead and get that first road win out of the way, especially to a pretty weak UAB team, so it won't have the potential to become a problem down the road.
2. Avoid the letdown/trap game
Let's address the potential letdown first. Fresno State was a big win for the Hurricane, mostly because of the way they did it. They showed tremendous heart and determination in battling through three turnovers (including two pick-sixes) and finding a way to win. After such an emotional win, the Hurricane will have to dig deep to find enough energy to take care of business against UAB.
Now let's examine the trap game aspect. UAB only won three games last season, and things are looking about the same for 2012. The Hurricane travels to Marshall in two weeks in what might end up being their toughest conference road game of the season. If TU looks past the Blazers and doesn't focus on the here and now, it could open the door for an upset.
If the Hurricane can move past their big win last week and not look ahead to their big game in two weeks, UAB could be in trouble.
1. Stop giving the ball away
Tulsa's main problem this season has been very simple: turnovers. If you recall, Tulsa had a 16-7 lead on Iowa State until Brian Burnham's fumble turned the game in the favor of the Cyclones. I already alluded to TU's sloppy play against Fresno State, turning it over three times and handing the Bulldogs two touchdowns for free. Tulsa even lost the turnover battle against lowly Tulane.
If the Hurricane can't get this problem fixed, they're eventually going to lose to someone who they shouldn't. Through four games, quarterback Cody Green looks like he's still not on the same page with the playmakers on this offense. If Tulsa wants to bring home the C-USA title, that needs to be corrected, and the turnovers have to stop.