Bobby Lewis, NewsOn6.com
TULSA, Oklahoma – All summer long, and even into the fall, Tulsa players and coaches pointed to Saturday's game against Tulane as the most important game on the schedule in the season's opening month.
Just seven days after getting punched and bloodied in Norman, Tulsa posted its first win of the year over a much-improved conference opponent. There were highs and lows in the Golden Hurricane's 31-3 win over Tulane. Here are the grades:
Give a gold star to junior wide receiver Bryan Burnham. He made the switch from defensive back to receiver before last season and has become G.J. Kinne's go-to guy early on this year. No. 88 caught a career-high seven passes for 94 yards and two scores. He also reeled in a would-be 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter that was called back because of a holding penalty.
Burnham scored his first career touchdown against the Sooners and added the pair against the Green Wave. He has really stepped up for the team in the absence of Damaris Johnson. Jordan James, a Lafayette, La. native, also set career-highs with three catches for 70 yards.
The Golden Hurricane scored 31 unanswered points after getting off to a slow start. Tulsa wore the Green Wave down and did most of its damage in the second half. They scored three touchdowns after intermission. If you only manage to score 10 points in the first half and turn the ball over twice, you can't earn an ‘A', even if it was a conference game on the road.
Many critics claimed the Golden Hurricane defense was sub-par after its opening week effort against Oklahoma. Those critics won't find much to complain about with the team's Week 2 performance against the Green Wave.
Tulsa held Tulane to 1.7 yards per carry and 235 yards of total offense. At halftime, Tulane had only 19 yards on the ground. They only made it past the Golden Hurricane 30-yard line three times, and managed to get one field goal out of it.
Tulsa forced two fumbles and Milton Howell got his first career interception. He did it in his hometown, no less. The Green Wave scored on its third possession and was only that deep in Tulsa territory because of a Kinne interception that was returned 31 yards.
After allowing 663 yards of offense against the Sooners, the Golden Hurricane clamped down on defense in Week 2. The only area Tulane really had any success was on short screen passes to the running backs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Tulsa did a great job covering the reigning C-USA special team Player of the Week, Robert Kelley. The freshman's longest return was only been 23 yards a week after torching Southeastern Louisiana for 213 yards (school record) on seven returns.
Cole Way punted well. He had one touchback and pinned the Green Wave inside its 20-yard line three times including a beautiful kick down to Tulane's own 1-yard line in the first half.
Marco Nelson and Trey Watts did a nice job returning kicks as well. Watts' electric 24-yard spin-filled jaunt in the fourth quarter was the eye-catching highlight of the night on special teams.
The slow start has to be a little concerning for the Tulsa coaching staff. The Golden Hurricane came away empty on six of its first eight drives and turned the ball over twice. The team did have four drives of 65+ yards and held a much-improved Tulane team to its lowest offensive output in
The emphasis this past week was on improving on third down defense. Tulsa struggled in that area against the Sooners but excelled against Tulane. Oklahoma converted 11-of-19 third downs in the opener. Tulane went 5-for-20 on third downs on Saturday.
Next up is a date with another in-state foe. Tulsa hosts No. 9 Oklahoma State in Week 3.