No. 24 Tulsa seeks berth in AAC title sport with win towards Navy

No. 24 Tulsa will seek to secure its first place in the American Athletic Conference title game by beating Navy on Saturday in Annapolis, Md.

The Golden Hurricane (5-1, 5-0 AAC) has won five games in a row since losing at the No. 1 at the time. 11 Oklahoma State 16-7 to open the season. Tulsa can also secure a place in the conference title game with a loss on Saturday, provided they beat Cincinnati No. 7 next week (8-0, 6-0).

“I think we should be in good shape,” said Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery on Tuesday, according to Tulsa World. “Everyone has bruises and a bit of bangs this time of year, but for the most part, I think everyone else will be available.”

However, Tulsa has never beaten Navy (3-5, 3-3) in the AAC game. The Midshipmen have stood 5-0 against Tulsa since joining the league in 2015. The Midshipmen dominated Tulsa last season when quarterback Malcolm Perry scored 218 yards and three touchdowns with 20 transfers in a 45-17 win. But Perry is now playing for the Miami Dolphins, and the Midshipmen were unable to recreate his production that year.

Navy has played at least two quarterbacks in six of its eight games, with the exception of Temple and Houston when Dalen Morris played every snap.

Morris and Tyger Goslin split in the team’s final game, completing 4 of 11 passes for 88 yards and one interception. Navy rushed 52 runs for 233 yards, led by Nelson Smith, who had 29 runs for 142 yards and one touchdown.

Navy and Tulsa were originally scheduled to meet on November 7, but the game was postponed after a coronavirus outbreak swept through the Naval Academy and prevented Midshipmen from traveling to Oklahoma for the competition.

By moving the game to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the Navy can give its 26 midshipmen a Senior Day to play another home game. Navy, who finished the season with Army on December 12, won 17 games in a row on Senior Day, but # 18 should be hard to come by.

Tulsa ranks 14th nationally in defense down (.319), 14th in defensive touchdowns (two), and 15th in fiddly recoveries (seven). The Golden Hurricane relies heavily on All-America linebacker contestant Zaven Collins, who leads the Golden Hurricane with 48 tackles, four sacks, and 10.5 tackles for loss, and his four interceptions rank fourth nationwide. Meanwhile, Kendarin Ray has had 46 tackles and broken five passes, while Bryson Powers has made two fiddly recoveries.

Quarterback Zach Smith, who sustained an upper body injury that sidelined him for most of the team’s final game against Tulane on Nov. 19, has completed 98 of his 162 passes for 1,266 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. Josh Johnson (32 catches, 408 yards, 5 TDs) and Keylon Stokes (31 catches, 446 yards, 2 TDs) are his favorite targets.

Deneric Price, who has 356 yards and a pair of points on 71 carries, and TK Wilkerson (73 carries, 300 yards, four touchdowns) accelerate the floor game.

“What they do on the offensive gets everyone in trouble,” said Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo. “They’ll scatter you a ton and hit the football. If you don’t support the running game, they’ll keep hitting you. If you try to involve people in the running game, they’ll take you to the sidelines.”

– Field level media

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