TULSA coach says win would quiet criticism

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

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa coach Keith Burns said a win could go a long ways toward silencing criticism of the Golden Hurricane football program after seven straight losses.

``What we've got to do is try to do what it takes to get a win and with a win a lot of this will fade,'' he said Monday.

Tulsa (1-7) lost 58-0 Saturday at No. 3 Oklahoma. TU resumes Western Athletic Conference play this weekend at Rice.

The lopsided loss to the heavily favored Sooners came as no surprise because a young Tulsa team was outmanned at all positions on both sides of the ball.

The toughest part of Tulsa's scheduled appears to have finally passed, but the team faces a 6-3 Rice team led by 14 starting seniors. TU got its first win last season at Rice Stadium.

Burns has been criticized lately by some in the press for a disappointing season. Tulsa hoped for its first winning season in a decade after finishing 5-7 last year, the best since 1991.

The second-year coach has also taken heat over his decision to demote junior quarterback Josh Blankenship. Freshman Tyler Gooch is the new starter. Blankenship is listed third on the depth chart behind James Kilian, a redshirt freshman.

Burns said Gooch remains the starter and said the quarterback shuffle creates competition that allows others to earn the opportunity to play.

Although Blankenship practiced some last week with the scout team, Burns said he is not the regular scout team quarterback but only subbed for an injured Zac Lassiter, who normally fills the position.

Burns said he has faced criticism before and said he doesn't expect this round to be the last.

``What you have to do is believe in yourself, your staff and your players and not get caught up in what's said and not said,'' he said.

Part of Tulsa's problem stems from a faltering defense slowed earlier by the absence of four injured starters. Two of them, defensive backs CJ Scott and Keithan McCorry, have returned and played against OU.

Tulsa's defense competed in an attempt to keep the team in the game at OU, Burns said.

Linebacker Michael Dulaney, who leads the team with 72 tackles on the season, had a solid performance.

``Mike is a type a guy, if he continues to play more, will be not only a leader on the field but a leader off the field,'' Burns said.

Still, the Sooners racked up 541 yards of offense and scored on seven straight possessions.

Tulsa is green with inexperience all over the roster with 12 of its 22 starters underclassmen.

The young Hurricane offense failed to move the ball effectively against OU's dominating defense, managing only 138 yards.

Burns early this season picked Oklahoma to repeat as national champions. He said he had even more respect for OU's talent after Saturday's game.

Despite the score, the Hurricane benefitted from playing in a big-time college football atmosphere against one of the nation's top teams.

``All the things that get you excited, that game had, and I think we walked away from there a better football team than the one that went in,'' Burns said.