Burns said first win gives players confidence going into next weekend

Tuesday, September 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _Tulsa's offense has been erratic and its defense has been tough when it needed to be.

But Tulsa coach Keith Burns said confidence gained from Saturday's 23-16 victory over Rice will be a big asset going into this weekend's game against Louisiana Tech.

``It was key for our players' mindsets,'' Burns said Monday of the Rice win, his first as a head coach. ``They've done everything we've asked of them.

``We just felt like we needed something to grab a hold of rather than just words and talk.''

Tulsa will be looking to even its 1-2 overall record Saturday against Louisiana Tech, which opened its season with a 63-10 win over Mississippi Valley State before losing its last three.

Two losses came on the road against top teams _ a 54-10 defeat at No. 4 Kansas State and a 67-7 loss to perennial heavyweight Penn State. Last weekend, the Bulldogs lost 34-31 in overtime to Division I-AA Stephen F. Austin.

But Burns said the Bulldogs' track record against big-name schools _ which pepper their schedule_ proves the team's mettle.

Last season the team beat then 18th-ranked Alabama 29-28. Later this season they have games against Auburn and Miami.

A Division I-A independent, Louisiana Tech is scheduled to move into the Western Athletic Conference next season.

``We obviously look at this as a WAC game,'' Burns said of this weekend's matchup.

About his own team, Burns had praise for freshman cornerback C.J. Scott, who was named WAC defensive player of the week Monday. Scott had 12 solo tackles against Rice, and Burns said he was critical in bottling up the Owls' option offense.

Despite giving up 335 rushing yards, Tulsa's defense kept Rice runners out of the end zone and held firm on a key fourth-and-2 at the 5-yard line in the first quarter.

``I felt for the most part we controlled the outside portion of their game,'' Burns said. ``I just thought we did a great job with their plan. We're a defense that has to fly around and cause turnovers and we did that.''

The Tulsa defense also forced three Rice fumbles _ with Tulsa kicker Chris Earnest turning each into a field goal. Earnest was named the WAC's Player of the Week in special teams and is 6-for-6 in field goals this season.

But Tulsa's offense showed only a shimmer of the proficiency it displayed in a 36-26 loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago.

Josh Blankenship, who threw for 373 yards against the Cowboys, was only 10-of-27 for 194 yards against Rice and Tulsa only got 10 first downs.