Tulsa sets sight on Boise's winning streak

Saturday, October 16th 2004, 12:22 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsa gave Boise State its toughest contest on the Smurf Turf a year ago in a game that showed the college football world that the Golden Hurricane had changed.

``Those guys gave us everything we could handle and more,'' Boise State coach Dan Hawkins said of the Broncos' 27-20 win last year on the blue field in Boise, Idaho.

Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe doesn't remember it the same way.

``We were down 20-0 in the football game, so they probably relaxed a little and let us back in the football game,'' Kragthorpe said. ``We did a good job with that one down the stretch.''

The Golden Hurricane gets another chance at No. 21 Boise State (5-0, 2-0 Western Athletic Conference) and its nation's best 16-game winning streak Saturday at Skelly Stadium and hopes a homecoming crowd will be the difference.

But this year's Tulsa team has not looked much like last year's that was fresh off a win over Hawaii and on its way to its first bowl game since 1991.

Tulsa's offense has struggled and the Golden Hurricane (1-4, 0-1) lost to the Warriors 44-16 two weekends ago. A Tulsa team that ranked 28th nationally in scoring offense last year has managed just four touchdowns in four games against Division I-A opponents.

``We have not executed as well,'' Kragthorpe said. ``We've had to settle for field goals ... I think, overall, we've played some excellent defenses this year.''

Boise State looks like the same Boise State that hasn't lost a conference game since losing to Louisiana Tech 48-42 on Nov. 3, 2001. The Broncos are 24-2 in league play since joining the WAC that year.

``They are not just squeaking by. They are crushing people,'' Kragthorpe said.

The Broncos are also the same team that continues to pile up wins but doesn't get the respect that teams in other regions, other conferences, other time zones would get with their recent record.

It's not lost on Kragthorpe, whose team has already played Big 12 foes Oklahoma State and Kansas.

``In my opinion, having watched them for the last seven days, all five of the games that they have played _ on offense, defense and special teams _ I think that they are the best football team we have had to play to date, without question,'' Kragthorpe said.

Boise State will be without safety and punt returner Chris Carr, who broke a collarbone Oct. 2. Carr was fifth in the nation in punt returns at 19.9 yards per attempt and 17th in kick returns at 27.7 yards per attempt.

Diminutive Austin Smith will fill-in for Carr on returns. Smith, normally the nickel back, will also help fill Carr's safety spot.

``When you're a smaller guy, if you have any kind of fears, it's going to weigh you down,'' Smith said. ``Being small, everybody wants to run at you, come at you ... I accept all challenges.''