|Unbeaten Tulsa faces SEC test against Arkansas|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 31 October 2008 09:07|
None of it matters much if No. 19 Tulsa can't win at Arkansas this weekend.
``We've got a lot of respect for their program,'' Golden Hurricane coach Todd Graham said. ``But our kids won't be intimidated by that setting at all.''
In only his second year at the helm, Graham has Tulsa in position to do something special. The unbeaten Golden Hurricane (8-0) are averaging 55.6 points and 601.1 yards.
We'll know more after Saturday, when the Golden Hurricane plays Arkansas, the only team on its schedule from a BCS conference, in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks (3-5) are rebuilding this year, but this is still a Southeastern Conference team coached by Bobby Petrino.
``People are going to say we're the underdog because they're in the SEC and everybody says that's a really strong conference, even though we're undefeated,'' wide receiver Damaris Johnson said. ``I think we're really going to look past that and just keep on doing what we're doing and just try to get a 'W' out of the game.''
Tulsa and Arkansas don't play every year, but their series dates back over a century. The Razorbacks have won the last 16 meetings.
Arkansas will try to exploit a Tulsa defense that's allowed 26.1 points per game against that soft schedule. Michael Smith, the Razorbacks' 5-foot-7 running back, is leading the SEC in rushing after teammates Darren McFadden and Felix Jones left for the NFL in the offseason.
``It's a 'show me' world,'' Smith said. ``They look at the size and the past of what people my size haven't been able to accomplish, and that's what they go off. Every now and then you get those ones that go against the grain and hopefully I can continue that.''
who remain largely anonymous while producing incredible numbers. The closest thing to a household name on the Golden Hurricane is quarterback David Johnson, who has thrown for 32 touchdowns this season.
Seven Tulsa players have at least 13 catches. Three of them - Slick Shelley, A.J. Whitmore and Charles Clay - played high school football in Arkansas.
When Graham took over at Tulsa, he brought in Gus Malzahn as an offensive assistant. Malzahn had been Arkansas' offensive coordinator for a year, but the Razorbacks hardly showed any signs of adopting his hurry-up, no-huddle offense. He left in January of 2007 to join the staff at Tulsa, and his departure led to fan unrest against Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, who also left around 10 months later.
If Malzahn has any strong feelings about facing the Hogs, he's not saying.
``I'm not really letting my mind go there,'' he said. ``I'm just focused on our team and win No. 9 and making sure I give our guys the best chance of winning.''
t subside until Nutt left the Hogs to take over at Mississippi.
Nutt's departure created a job opening in Fayetteville, and Petrino was happy to fill it in December when he wanted out of Atlanta.
That brings us to this week. Petrino's Razorbacks have made progress since blowout losses to Alabama, Texas and Florida earlier in the season, but they need a strong finish to qualify for a bowl.
Tulsa, on the other hand, has bigger goals in mind - but a win this week is essential. Even if the Hurricane remain undefeated, getting into the BCS is going to be tough. Without that perfect record, no chance.
``We know that this is a big, big challenge for us,'' Graham said. ``Our kids are ready and locked and loaded and fired up about it.''