I watched a show on Channel Six last weekend. It may have been called Oklahomans. The lady, probably not well versed in sports, sat down with Wes Welker. Of course, you're familiar with Welker's plight.
The diminutive receiver played high school football at Heritage Hall High School in Oklahoma City. Due to his stature, he failed to register as a top national recruit. He hoped to play ball at the University of Tulsa.
The Hurricane coach at the time was "rah-rah" Keith Burns. Burns and his staff led Welker to believe a scholarship was imminent.
During a face-to-face with Burns, Welker was denied. Burns with a hung-dog look on his face advised Welker, after leading him and his family on, that the All-State Player of the Year wasn't the type of player the University of Tulsa was looking to sign.
Hopefully you know the rest of the story. The point of this introduction is this: Look how far the Golden Hurricane has come in the past five years.
The city is ho-hum about the Hurricane going bowling four years in a row. The dry spell prior to the streak was depressing. Now... we expect greatness from the men (and women) at 11th and Harvard.
The goals were high for this squad. A blazing start vaulted the team into the national rankings. A high-scoring, entertaining group romped to an 8-0 start. A mental snafu halted the momentum in Fayetteville against the Hogs.
Tulsa finished the season with a whimper. A staggering loss in the Conference USA Championship game landed the troops in the GMAC Bowl. No one will admit a loss is a good thing, but I firmly believe the GMAC Bowl is a much better fit than the alternative. A win against East Carolina would have sent the team to the Liberty Bowl to face a mediocre Kentucky team.
Where is the upside in this tilt?
Beat an average SEC team in a game the day after the New Year's Day bowl games and you're written off quicker than Tom Cruise's performance in Valkyrie.
Now the Hurricane prepares to face the Ball State Cardinals. Here are a few fun facts about the clash of mid-major powerhouses on January 6.
Lawrence (Bubba) Cunningham earned his job as TU's Director of Athletics after a spectacular three-year stint with Ball State as athletic director.
The GMAC Bowl takes place in Ladd-Peebles Stadium located in Mobile, Alabama. The stadium is also home to the Senior Bowl. The facility boasts of Ed Sullivan and Mobile-native Jimmy Buffet performing there in the past.
Ball State is coachless, sort of. In-season coach Brady Hoke accepted the coaching job at San Diego State. He declined the opportunity to coach the Cardinals in its bowl endeavor. Offensive coordinator Stan Parrish was promoted to head man. Before you write off the "coach taking over for the bowl game" situation, remember what happened to OU last year when they played West Virginia.
Six Tulsa players were rewarded with All-Conference honors this year. Running back Tarrion Adams, receiver Brennan Marion and guard Justin Morsey were first team selections. Defensive end Moton Hopkins, safety James Lockett and kick returner Damaris Johnson earned second team accolades.
Any coincidence that the first team guys were on the offensive side of the ball while the defensive and special teams players earned second team?
Freshman Damaris Johnson picked up several honors following his highly productive freshman season. Rivals.com named him to its All-America first-team as an all-purpose player. He earned second-team All-America accolades as a kick return specialist by Phil Steele's College Football magazine. Sporting News magazine named him to its Freshman All-America first team.
I am all hyphened-out.
Sporting News magazine named David Johnson the Offensive MVP for C-USA. That is great, you know, that the magazine still gives out awards in 2008 as if they were relevant.
Ball State University also fields a top-15 ranked quarterback. Nate Davis completes 67 percent of his passes. His 26 to 7 (touchdown to interception) ratio is respectable. He is on the pro scouts' radar.
His athleticism allows him to break containment several times a game to keep drives alive. He has become more proficient at picking his spots as the year has progressed.
Running back MiQuale Lewis supplants the passing attack with 1,701 yards and 22 TDs on his resume this year. The Hurricane coaching staff will need to dial up an innovative defensive strategy to slow down the Cardinals.
"Naturally, we're disappointed we didn't win the Conference USA championship, but on the same hand we're very excited to have the opportunity to represent Conference USA at the GMAC Bowl and play an opponent like Ball State," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said. "They're a 12-1 team and a nationally ranked team which is what we're excited about."
Coach is right, again. The prestige for a bowl game like the GMAC is minimal. I'm looking right at you, you non-BCS believers, when I say this. Bowl games are fantastic. People complain about too many teams and games. Actually, people just complain too damn much these days.
Here's a solution: Don't like the matchup? Don't watch the game. Simple and effective solutions provided by your favorite UTW sports editor.
Ball State is currently a two-point favorite heading into this offensive showdown. Give me the points and take TU.
Share this article: