HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Tulsa isn't just bringing one of Conference USA's top offenses into Huntington.
When the Golden Hurricane lines up against Marshall at 3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS Sports Network telecast), it's also bringing a defense that tops the conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision in sacks and tackles for loss.
Tulsa averages 5.2 sacks and 10.6 tackles for loss per game this season. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said the Hurricane's blitzing ability has made its defense very dangerous.
"About 50 percent of the time they're coming after you in one way or another, whether it is pressure from the edges or the backers," he said. "They do put a lot of pressure on your offense as far as blitzing is concerned. Their defensive guys move around a lot because of the blitz packages they have."
Herd offensive coordinator Bill Legg said Tulsa does a great job of hiding when it blitzes. It holds on until the very last second to show when the defense will blitz, sometimes showing it only after the ball is snapped. It's also tough to know how much the defense will blitz in any given game. Sometimes the Golden Hurricane (4-1, 2-0) will blitz every other down, Legg said, and sometimes it might be one in every four downs.
The Thundering Herd (2-3, 1-0) currently allows two sacks per game. Sixth-year guard John Bruhin said the offense must exploit any holes that appear because of the blitz.
"Hopefully the coaches get us dialed in on the right stuff to run and we'll handle it," Bruhin said. "You just try to hit them over the top a couple of time or just run it right at them. Hopefully some holes will open up."
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ON THE SURFACE, it looks like Tulsa buys into the same quick-tempo offensive scheme that Marshall and many other teams do.
The Golden Hurricane averages 83 plays per game. But that full-speed-ahead style isn't what Tulsa runs 100 percent of the time, said Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon.