BOISE, IDAHO (AP) - Three games into his head coaching career and Tulsa’s Bill Blankenship could already write a thesis on adversity.
It has nothing to do with the brutal schedule to begin his first season as the Golden Hurricanes’ head coach, a stretch that ends after Saturday night’s game at No. 4 Boise State.
It started with the suspension of Tulsa’s best player, Damaris Johnson, after he was charged with felony embezzlement, followed by a litany of key injuries, the latest to starting quarterback G.J. Kinne.
Oh, and then there was last week’s home-opening loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State _ a game that was delayed more than three hours by weather and didn’t end until 3:35 a.m. local time on Sunday morning.
“That sounded awful. To have that kind of delay, that would be tough to go out there and play that late,” Boise State receiver Tyler Shoemaker said. “Hopefully we won’t have any issues like that here and just get a normal game going.”
Normal is about the last thing Tulsa (1-2) has experienced so far. They are just one of two teams in the country _ along with Arizona _ that have to play three AP Top 10 teams in the first four games.
It started with the season opener at Oklahoma, then last week’s wackiness against Oklahoma State and concludes with serving as the Broncos’ home opener.
Asked this week if it’s been difficult staying positive through the early adversity, Blankenship snapped back that there isn’t another choice.
“What’s the alternative?” he said. “Do you want to look in the past? We believe in it enough to put it in our team room _ no excuses, no explanations, high expectations, perfect execution. We accomplish those things, we are going to be a great program.”
If Kinne is unable to go, the job will fall to freshman Kalen Henderson, who led the Hurricanes to 27 points last week against Oklahoma State, but also threw three interceptions and completed 6 of 20 passes.
What would help is if Tulsa’s run game is just as dynamic as it was against the Cowboys. Ja’Terian Douglas ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns, while Trey Watts added another 163 yards on 23 carries.
“I like their offense. They’re creative, they can run the ball, they spread you out, they throw it. They do it all. They can do whatever they need to do,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “I think always dear to our heart is someone who can run the ball and to run for that many yards that late into the night, that’s pretty impressive.”
But while Tulsa’s got questions, the Broncos are ready to showoff at home.
For the second straight season, Boise State is one of the final teams in the country to play its home opener. They’ll be greeted by a sellout ready to show admiration for Boise State’s impressive season-opening 35-21 win over Georgia in Atlanta, followed by last week’s 40-15 dismantling of Toledo where quarterback Kellen Moore completed a career-high 32 passes for 455 yards and five touchdowns.
While Moore was masterful, all is not perfect for the Broncos. Petersen admonished his defense this week as needing to play harder and with more energy. Toledo rolled up nearly 350 total yards on the Broncos defense after giving up 373 yards to Georgia in the opener.
Last season, the Broncos defense allowed just 300 total yards only three times.
“That is something you can practice. That comes back to the fundamentals of wrapping up and sticking your face in the guy and running to the ball as a unit,” defensive tackle Billy Wynn said. “Instead of two or three guys running to the ball, if you can get nine or 10 guys to the ball, it really limits those missed tackles.”
The Broncos would also like to see more from running back Doug Martin and the ground game as a whole. While Martin finished with 192 total yards from scrimmage, only 70 came on the ground. And that followed up running for just 57 yards in the opener against Georgia.
A sidenote to Saturday’s game: fashion. This will be one of two home games this season where the Broncos will be allowed to wear their traditional all-blue lineup _ helmet, jersey and pants. As part of joining the Mountain West this season, the Broncos were told they would not be allowed to wear all-blue during conference home games.
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