Don't tell me Central Florida was a good defense. I knew last week that it was incredibly overrated. The Knights had played JV-middle school girls competition through the first four games of the season in Orlando. They got stomped by Tulsa on Thursday night. TU blew by nearly every "impressive" statistical category UCF had posted for the season – in one night.
Now, Tulsa has won ten straight C-USA games dating back to last season. The streak is the third longest in league history. The record is 13 in a row. Tulsa can tie that if it wins the rest of its regular season games.
Originally I wasn't sold on that being an impressive offensive effort against the Knights. The big thing that stuck out in my mind were the two drives that ended in very short field goals because Tulsa failed to punch it in from inside the 15 yard line. I also kept thinking about how TU went for it on fourth down and came up empty on a pass to Willie Carter (that the refs kind of messed up on the review).
But, that WAS a great effort from the Golden Hurricane. UCF came into game allowing 84.5 yards per game rushing. G.J. Kinne had that on his own (92) and Tulsa ran for 251 yards as a team. That total was 69 more rushing yards given up in one game than UCF had allowed all season at home.
It's also the most rushing yards the Knights allowed in the past 66 games overall. Tulsa busted UCF in the mouth to the tune of 454 total yards and 21 plays of 11+ yards. Coming into the game, UCF had allowed just 16 plays of 11+ yards in its four home wins.
It was a career day for Jordan James. The sophomore wide receiver caught a career-high six passes and finished with 74 yards receiving. Kinne had 295 yards of total offense.
Final gripe about UCF's "Top 3" defense:
UCF allowed 2.3 points per game at home this year before playing Tulsa – ahead of the Alabama (5.4 ppg) and LSU (7.8) paces. Why were they so successful? The combined records of the UCF opponents in those games were 8-26. For Alabama? 19-22. LSU? 18-15. Stop pretending, UCF. When they played adequate competition, the weaknesses got exposed.
In Todd Graham's final two seasons on the Tulsa sideline, Tulsa managed to hold teams to fewer than 20 points in five different games. If fans were concerned with Tulsa's switch to the 4-3 defense this year, the proof's on the scoreboard. Tulsa's defense has now given up fewer than 20 points five times in Bill Blankenship's first eight games.
Curnelius Arnick ended the night with a career-high 19 tackles against the Knights. That was the most in a single game for a Tulsa player since Chris Chamberlain had 20 in 2007 (Houston).
This was the first game of year where Tulsa didn't force a single turnover. They were pretty good in that category over the past three games. They forced UAB, Rice and SMU into 11 giveaways. Tulsa played well when it needed to, despite having to deal with a tough team on the road in a short week of preparation.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Not good. The kickoff return team was porous. UCF returned six kickoffs for 172 total yards. That's a 28.7 yard average and included a 48 yard gainer. The opening kickoff of the game would have been more than that had it not been called back because of a penalty. That unit had its worst performance this season.
On a positive note, Kevin Fitzpatrick kept Tulsa in the game. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal tries. He put points on the board even when TU failed to punch it in for a touchdown.
Tyrunn Walker had a big night on defense but he also made a big play on special teams. He leaped to block a field goal attempt at the end of the first half that could have given UCF a 17-13 advantage.
Tulsa is undefeated in Conference USA play and now has over a week to prepare for a struggling Marshall team. 2008 was the last time Tulsa started the CUSA season with a 5-0 record. That year they finished with a 7-1 league mark. The defense is playing great. The offense can score at will. This roster has the makings of a CUSA champion.