Marshall (4-5) at Tulsa (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 12th, 12:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: FSN. Home Record: Marshall 3-1, Tulsa 3-1. Away Record: Marshall 1-4, Tulsa 3-2. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: Marshall 3-2, Tulsa 5-0. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The Tulsa Golden Hurricane will put their unblemished Conference USA record on the line when they host the Marshall Thundering Herd on Saturday afternoon at Chapman Stadium.
This is the third meeting between these two schools on the gridiron. Tulsa was victorious in both prior contests, the latest of which clinched the C-USA West Division title in 2008.
Tulsa enters the weekend tied with Houston atop the West Division standings, and those two are slated to square off in the regular-season finale on November 25 in a matchup that could decide the conference crown. But first, the Golden Hurricane will try and run their winning streak to six consecutive games with a victory over Marshall. Last Thursday, Tulsa traveled to UCF and came away with a 24-17 win to become bowl eligible.
As for the Thundering Herd, they enter this contest with two weeks of preparation, as last weekend's bye gave some of the team's walking wounded a chance to heal up a bit. Their most recent outing was their most impressive showing so far this season, a 59-14 rout over UAB on October 29. The Herd need to win two of their final three games to become bowl eligible, as Memphis and East Carolina are on tap following this week's tilt.
Entering their last game against UAB, Marshall ranked 109th in total offense (308 ypg) and 112th in scoring (16.4 ppg). Playing at home against the Blazers seemed to cure those offensive woes, at least for one week. A.J. Graham threw five touchdown passes in the route, four of which went to different receivers as the Herd lit up the scoreboard with a season-best 59 points. It was the first time a Marshall quarterback threw for five touchdowns in a game since Stan Hill did it against Kent State in 2003. Behind Graham and the aerial attack, Marshall posted 429 total yards for the game and scored on all five of its trips to the red zone, including four touchdowns. Troy Evans (six rec, 106 yds) and Gator Hoskins (two rec, 37 yds) each caught a pair of TD passes in the victory. Since taking over the starting gig against Rice on October 15, Graham has completed 64.5 percent of his passes (162.2 ypg) with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Aaron Dobson added another receiving touchdown to his total against UAB, marking his seventh TD grab of the year. With two weeks of practice time since their last game, look for Dobson and Graham to continue building their chemistry together.
While Marshall's offense was busy scoring early and often against UAB, the defense notched two scores of its own. Omar Brown returned an interception to the house in the second quarter, and Billy Mitchell added a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the third. It marked the first time since the GMAC Bowl in December 2001 that Marshall had two defensive scores in a game. In all, the defense came away with five takeaways, including three picks. Senior defensive end Vinny Curry continues to make plays on a weekly basis. He is coming off another monster game in which he posted eight tackles (seven solo, one assist), a sack and three forced fumbles. Devin Arrington, Rashad Jackson and Omar Brown each had interceptions. As a unit, it was a major improvement from the previous outing against Houston that saw the Cougars put 63 points on the board. While the Herd may not boast one of the most talented defenses around -- they rank seventh in the conference and 79th nationally in total defense (404.2 ypg) -- they have shown a penchant for making big plays in the turnover department. Minus the Houston game, Marshall has allowed an average of under 16 points over its last four games.
During their current five-game win streak, the Golden Hurricane have averaged a healthy 35.6 ppg. In their five C-USA games, they have enjoyed an average winning margin of 20.2 points and has out-scored opponents by an average of 33-13 so far in league play. While the 24 points scored against UCF marked the team's lowest output since September, there were plenty of key plays by the offense, especially late with the game still in the balance. Clinging to a 24-17 lead with under five minutes remaining in regulation, Tulsa converted two big first downs to keep the drive alive and eventually run out the clock. The offensive line plowed open gaping holes in the running game all day long. The Hurricane gained 251 yards rushing, 166 more than UCF had been allowing on the year. Quarterback G.J. Kinne led the charge with 92 yards on 14 carries, and he also threw for 203 yards and a TD on 15-of-28 passing. On the season, he ranks second in the conference in passing efficiency and fourth in total offense, as he has provided a nice ground complement to running backs Trey Watts (63.1 rushing yards per game) and Ja'Terian Douglas (61.1 rypg).
Headlining the Tulsa defense is senior linebacker Curnelius Arnick, who has totaled 113 tackles in nine games this year and ranks fourth in the nation in per-game average (12.56 tackles per game). Arnick's 8.56 solo stops per game ranks second nationally. He came up with a game-high 19 tackles and a couple of key defensive plays against UCF to help preserve the win in that game. UCF was looking to extend its lead just before the half, but Walker blocked a 46- yard field goal attempt with no time remaining. Later, with 4:54 remaining in regulation and UCF looking to tie or go ahead with a 4th-and-goal from the 4, Walker chased down Knights quarterback Jeff Godfrey, forcing an errant throw that gave Tulsa the ball back to run out the clock. With Walker leading the charge, Tulsa kept UCF out of the end zone in the second half while the offense took over the lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Dating back to last year's 52-24 home victory against Tulane, Tulsa has now won 10 straight Conference USA games. The 10-game streak is the third-longest in C-USA history behind Southern Miss' streaks of 13 and 14 wins. Expect the Golden Hurricane to make it 11 in a row with another solid effort on both sides of the ball.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 31, Marshall 16
11/09 10:40:02 ET