The nationally ranked and nationally recognized Cincinnati Bearcats play host this Saturday to a struggling Tulsa Golden Hurricane club.
Tulsa has struggled to a 2-4 mark midway through the 2019 season. Philip Montgomery’s club has demonstrated some offensive prowess but has proven unable to stop very many of their opponents on defense. Tulsa is surrendering nearly 33 points per game. They have proven particularly vulnerable against the run, allowing more than 200 yards per game.
Tulsa is led by junior quarterback Zach Smith, who is a quintessential big, strong Texas-raised signal caller. Smith began his college career at Baylor but has excelled in his role as Tulsa’s starter. The junior has thrown for 1,618 yards with 10 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 6 games. He has yet to play a bad game this season. This is particularly impressive since Tulsa’s offensive line is not exactly the 1990s Dallas Cowboys. Smith has been under pressure on a clear majority of dropbacks this season. His completion percentage is a deceptively low 55 percent, as Smith prefers to throw the ball away to chancing an interception.
Smith has several steady targets at wide receiver, including lanky Sophomore Sam Crawford Jr., who leads the team with 26 receptions and 370 yards. Senior wide-out Keenen Johnson has displayed big-play capability throughout his tenure with the Golden Hurricane and must be a focus of the Bearcats’ defensive secondary.
Tulsa has a productive running back in Shamari Brooks, who runs awfully hard and tough for a back that weighs less than 200 pounds. Brooks is decidedly not a pass catcher and he has tended to disappear from the game-plan when Tulsa has fallen behind in its early games.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tulsa has been pushed around upfront in nearly every contest. The team’s leading tackler is safety Brandon Johnson, who has played more like a roving linebacker for much of the season.
The Golden Hurricane have been inconsistent in their ability to generate a pass rush all season. Senior defensive end Trevis Gipson, who is something of a pass-rush specialist, has made 4 of the team’s 5 total sacks in 6 games. Tulsa has intercepted just 1 pass as a team.
Cincinnati should win this game convincingly but must prevent Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith from willing this club into a competitive outcome on Saturday.