Bulls’ turnaround could start with Tulsa

USF has been tied or in the lead at halfitme in five of its six games, but has won only two. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Tulsa has fielded a football team for 115 seasons compared to USF’s 17. While their backgrounds may differ, the two programs are in a similar place this season.

With a noon kickoff Saturday, the two teams square off at H.A. Chapman Stadium in their first-ever meeting, looking to turn their seasons around.

With a 1-5 record, Tulsa only has one less win than USF, but remains in the same position in the conference, at 1-1. Tulsa’s lone win came in its opening game, beating Tulane 38-31 in double overtime.

Since then, Tulsa has been virtually irrelevant in the conference, losing its last five games by an average of 22.6 points per game.

Though Tulsa hasn’t proven to be much of a threat this season, USF is in no position to look past the Golden Hurricane.

Coach Willie Taggart has led the Bulls to a 2-4 record, but has failed to close games against top-caliber teams when given the chance.

“We have to change our attitudes when we’re up in games,” Taggart said. “We need to go out and finish, rather than hoping we hang on to win it.”

USF held Wisconsin’s high-powered offense to three first-half points in Week 5 before being outscored 24-7 in the second half.

“We had two drives on offense — one was a six-play and one was an 11-play — that we drove down the field, but when we got on the fringe of the red zone, we had some penalties that hurt us and we ended up not scoring,” Taggart said. “Those are missed opportunities.”

Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship has had a similar problem. He secured a 24-21 lead, early in the fourth quarter against Temple on Saturday, but the Golden Hurricane gave up 14-straight points, ultimately losing 35-24.

The Bulls have shown they can hang with the top programs, but have yet to put together a complete game against any of them.

“We just need to score points in the second half, offensively,” senior center Austin Reiter said. “We could’ve come out on top in a lot of these games if we would’ve just scored some points in the second half. That’s the key.”

USF has scored 41 first-quarter points this season compared to only 16 in the final quarter.

Tulsa is a team that hangs in games and makes a late push. Unlike USF, Tulsa has scored 35 more points in the fourth quarter than in the first, forcing two overtime games.

“There is a very thin margin between winning and losing,” Blankenship said in the AAC’s weekly teleconference. “We’re at a point where we’re competing, but we’re not making those two or three plays that win games.”

Despite the struggles of these two teams, they both sit at 1-1 in the conference, which ties them for third best.

A turnaround is there for the taking, but it will start with this game. At 2-1, the winner of Saturday’s game will be in good position to make a run at the conference, which has yet to establish a clear favorite behind ECU.