Tulsa, San Jose State game matches coach cronies

Friday, October 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ If Tulsa coach Keith Burns and San Jose State's Fitz Hill talk a little trash Saturday, it will just be a reminder of their budding friendship.

As assistants at Arkansas, Hill's receivers matched up against Burns' secondary for 40 minutes at every practice, Burns said. And the coaches joined the fray to fire up the players.

``There were times he wanted to break my neck and times I wanted his too,'' he said.

Both coaches are looking to snap seasons mired in losses. Both are counting on changes at quarterback to help get the job done Saturday when Tulsa (1-5, 0-4 Western Athletic Conference) travels to San Jose State (1-5, 1-2 WAC).

Hill replaced two-year starter Marcus Arroyo last week with Clint Carlson, a fifth-year senior and former walk-on. And he resisted pulling him when he threw three interceptions in the first half.

Carlson responded by throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns in the Spartans' first win of the season, a 40-28 victory over UTEP. He also scored on an 18-yard run.

He left Hill with no doubts about starting him against Tulsa.

``Clint gave us a lift with his running and the way he scored on running the football,'' Hill said. ``He really gave the team a boost by how he went and made some really heroic efforts.''

With decisions like that, Burns sees the Spartans taking on some of their first-year coach's personality.

The change seemed to come two weeks ago when San Jose State started attacking on both sides of the ball, he said.

``Early on, it was like what they had last year worked so they didn't want to get too far away from that,'' Burns said. ``Now I can see it's almost like Fitz finally said, `Hey, we're doing this,' and the last two weeks they've done it.''

Burns made his own switch at quarterback four weeks ago against New Mexico State, starting Tyler Gooch over Josh Blankenship, who has made 21 starts.

But Gooch took a bad blow to the ankle and couldn't complete that game or the next. He sat out last week against Hawaii. Burns is counting on him this week.

``I want to see him play for four quarters,'' he said.

Tulsa spoiled the Spartans' three-game winning season last year and wrecked its hopes of a tie for the conference crown.

Burns figures San Jose State brings momentum from its first win to the game. Tulsa brings the need ``to make it happen now or it may not come our way.''

``They're pumped up and eager, and we're scrapping,'' he said. ``It ought to be a great game.''