STEVENS: Hurricane Can Huff & Puff On Both Sides Of Ball
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/10/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 10, 2009

Lobo Football
Lobos vs. Tulsa
When/Where: 6:06 p.m. Saturday, University Stadium
Radio: 770-AM KKOB; Lobo Radio Network.
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker, results on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

On one level, you have to be hoping that Lobo Coach Mike Locksley's belief that a team's greatest improvement comes from Game One to Game Two doesn`t hold true for all teams.

Because that's exactly what Tulsa coach Todd Graham is expecting from his Golden Hurricane.

"We have to see a huge jump between Week One and Week Two," said Graham. "That's when you see the most amount of improvement."

One thing the Lobos don't need come Saturday at University Stadium is for the Hurricane to be even nastier than they were this past Saturday when they blew through Tulane 37-13 -- at Tulane.

The Hurricane went at Bob Toledo's (ex-Lobo offensive coordinator) team with a balanced attack of 201 yards rushing and 211 yards passing and rolled to an easy win in The Big Easy (New Orleans).

The Hurricane got the 211 aerial yards from new quarterback G.J. Kinne, who completed 15-of-20 passes. Kinne ran for a TD, threw for a TD and added a 45-yard scamper.

A huge key in taking the pressure off their sophomore quarterback was the Hurricane running up 17 points in the first quarter. Of course, Kinne had a lot to do with that production. He also ended the game as Tulsa's top rusher with 79 yards.

It wasn't so easy for UNM's Donovan Porterie, who found himself in a 20-0 hole in the Lobos' no-TD 41-6 loss at Texas A&M.

Locksley says Tulsa has "big play" written all over them. The Lobos saw lots of that big play stuff in their 56-14 loss at Tulsa last year. The Lobos saw a lot of consistency out of A&M in UNM's loss at College Station.

The Hurricane are the next challenge on a Lobo schedule that is full of serious challenges: A&M, Tulsa, Texas Tech, Brigham Young, Utah, TCU, Air Force.

All those teams definitely can score points. Tulsa hit the scoreboard the hardest on UNM in 2008. The Hurricane have great potential to score again in 2009 and one of the Hurricane's top weapons comes before the Tulsa offense gets the ball.

Damaris Johnson averaged 28.3 yards per punt and 25.3 yards per kick return vs. Tulane. He put six points on the board with a 66-yard punt return. He had 252 all-purpose yards.

"There's something about when you put a guy back there that your kids believe can take the thing to the house every time," Graham said. "All of the sudden, our punt return technique gets better and guys believe in what they're doing."

The Lobos obviously have a lot of keys when it comes to targeting and tackling the Hurricane. Get pressure on Kinne. Don't let Johnson beat you and effect field position. Stop the Tulsa run game.

But there are problems on the other side of the ball, too. The Golden Hurricane aren't simply a team that wants to outscore you. Tulane scored only a single TD. These Hurricane guys also huff and puff on the defensive side of the ball.

Tulsa had three sacks and an interception in the first 10 plays vs. Tulane. The home team was in that 17-0 hole before it managed its initial first down of the game.

Tulsa's defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said he was happy with how his defense attacked early, but wasn't too thrilled with giving up some "cheap" yardage later in the game. Tulane did rack up 364 yards on offense. He said his defense lost a little focus, but everything they did wrong was "correctable."

Patterson also said the early lead allowed his defense to play a lot of zone and not dip deeply into its defensive bag of tricks.

One stat that does bode well for UNM is the 325 passing yards Tulsa yielded to Tulane. And that was despite the Hurricane defense registering five sacks, two by linebacker Tanner Antle.

The bad news for UNM might be the Tulsa defense holding Tulane to 39 yards rushing. The Lobos had a net 21 yards on the ground vs. Texas A&M. UNM is hoping to inject a little more life -- and yardage -- into that attack come Saturday at University Stadium.

The top tacklers for Tulsa in its opener were DeAundre Brown with 14, Mike Bryan with 11 and Antle with nine. Bryan had an interception and four tackles for a loss. Bryan said there are a "lot of things" the Tulsa defense can correct.

Which is something the Lobos don't really want. The uncorrected Tulsa team that went to Tulane scored 37 and gave up 13. That doesn't sound like there is much to correct.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner