Vitals: Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. SMU Mustangs

Wednesday, October 26th 2011, 11:20 pm
By: News 9

Grant Belcher,

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (4-3, 3-0 Conference USA) vs. Southern Methodist Mustangs (5-2, 3-1)
Saturday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.
H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa

Statistical Leaders

  Tulsa SMU
Passing  G.J. Kinne
127-199, 1621 yds, 15 TD
 J.J. McDermott
145-252, 2013 yds, 10 TD
 Rushing  Ja'Terian Douglas
61 car, 484 yds, 3 TD
 Zach Line
137 car, 828, 13 TD
 Receiving  Willie Carter
36 rec, 529 yds, 4 TD
 Darius Johnson
43 rec, 623 yds, 4 TD

Where to look for it

TV: Fox Sports Network (Ron Thulin, JC Pearson, Jeremy Bloom)
Radio: KRMG 740 AM/FM 102.3 (Bruce Howard, Rick Couri, Chris Kaiser)

Injury Report

Tulsa: DB John Flanders, DT Darell Zellars (academics, out for season) WR Damaris Johnson (suspended indefinitely) WR Thomas Roberson (undisclosed, questionable)

SMU: RB Zach Line (shoulder, probable) LB Byron Brown (head, doubtful)

What you need to know

Saturday's game is huge not just because it is a homecoming affair, but also because of the opponent. TU coach Bill Blankenship has said repeatedly that anyone wanting to win the division must go through Southern Methodist to do it. So far, TU has been perfect in conference play at 3-0, but SMU will undoubtedly be the toughest conference opponent yet. The Mustangs sport an impressive win over then-No. 20 TCU on the road. Coming into last week, the Mustangs' only loss came in the season opener against Texas A&M, but SMU got dominated in nearly every aspect last weekend in a 27-3 loss to Southern Miss.

Homecoming has been good to the Golden Hurricane over the past few years, with Tulsa winning seven of the past nine homecoming contests. The only two losses came against No. 18 Boise State in 2004 and then to SMU in 2009. The Mustangs have won the past two games in the series against TU.

Turnovers have been a big key to Tulsa's success in C-USA play so far this year. The Golden Hurricane's first 17 points against the Rice Owls came off of turnovers. Two interceptions set up 34- and 26-yard touchdown drives, while a recovered fumble accounted for the field goal. Tulsa got two touchdowns from its defensive squad earlier this year against North Texas. Forcing turnovers appears to be a key against SMU, as Southern Miss forced two turnovers against the Mustangs that both led to scores in the 27-3 blowout.

Who to watch

Every sport has random "niche" roles that every once in a while a player will truly excel at, giving his team a distinct advantage at something that most people don't even think about. Baseball sometimes sees ambidextrous pitchers while a basketball team might have a 95 percent free-throw shooter who only comes in at the end of a tight game. But Southern Methodist has a player with a distinct talent the likes of which have not been seen in college football in a long time. Margus Hunt is a defensive end, but his true position on the team is "kick blocker." Hunt has blocked seven field goal attempts and six extra points in his career and he is only partway through his junior season. The NCAA career record for each of those categories is eight, and it's only safe to assume Hunt will be surpassing those numbers by the time he is done playing. At 6-foot-8, 295 pounds, he looks more like a basketball player and always brings an exciting aspect to normally mundane plays such as extra points and chip shot field goals.

Tulsa wide receiver Willie Carter had a career game, to say the least, against Rice. He put up 160 yards and a touchdown against the Owls, but it was not his first 100-yard receiving game this season. In the season opener against the top-ranked Sooners, Carter had 135 yards on five catches. Carter now leads the team in receiving, and also has a rushing touchdown on the year.

SMU running back Zach Line is certainly a load for any team to handle on defense. Line is tied for sixth nationally (with OSU's Joseph Randle) for most points scored, regardless of position. He has had some monster games, going off for 100-plus rushing yards in five of his seven games so far this year, and scoring multiple touchdowns in four of them. Last year, the Golden Hurricane held him relatively in check with less than 100 yards and no touchdowns.