Burns looks for answers for ineffective defense

Tuesday, November 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ For the third week in a row, Tulsa coach Keith Burns can't explain a defense as leaky as a sieve.

Rice beat Tulsa 59-32 Saturday. It was the third straight loss in which opponents scored more than 50 points and ran up huge numbers on offense.

The Owls had a school record 653 yards. Before that, No. 3 Oklahoma wracked up 541 and San Jose State 746, also a school record. That's just under 2,000 yards in three weeks.

``The number of yards and the number of points we have given up just doesn't make sense,'' Burns said Monday.

Injuries early on forced him to substitute with younger players. The Golden Hurricane has also been outmanned on the line.

But the defense has had plenty of time to adjust and stop, or at least slow, opposing offenses.

Tulsa (1-8, 0-8 Western Athletic Conference) is failing to transfer solid work at practice into effective play on Saturdays, said Burns, a former defensive coordinator at Arkansas who said he has never seen anything like TU's defensive meltdown.

The Hurricane has also failed to bounce back from big losses and play well defensively the following week, something teams often do.

``That's been a frustrating thing, but the only thing I know how to do is coach them hard and continue to praise them and pat them on the back and hopefully we'll get a break that will give them some enthusiasm and some confidence,'' Burns said.

Tulsa is next to last in the conference in rushing defense, giving up 220 yards on the ground each game. The defense gave up 498 rushing yards to Rice's option offense.

The Hurricane will attempt a defensive comeback this week against Southern Methodist. A win would snap an eight-game losing streak. The Mustangs are last in the WAC in total offense, managing 307 yards a game, but first in total defense, holding opponents to 313 yards.

Tulsa's offense is eighth overall, two places ahead of SMU, with 350 yards. But Burns said the unit is improving behind freshman quarterback Tyler Gooch.

The Hurricane ran and passed for 506 yards against Rice. Gooch was 21-37 for 204 yards and had two touchdown throws. He led Tulsa rushers with 140 yards.

The offense was without receiver Donald Shoals, who had a sprained ankle.

``If you would have told me we would have 500 yards, 30-some-odd points against Rice without our playmaker, Donald Shoals, I would have thought we would have won that ball game,'' Burns said.

He assumed Rice might score 28 points against TU.

HURRICANE NOTES: Burns took little solace in one WAC statistic from last weekend. Nevada surrendered more yards _ 849 _ to San Jose State than Tulsa did. Nevada and San Jose State combined for a WAC record 1,640 yards. San Jose State won, 64-45.