The Independence Bowl is just nine days away!
We looked at the matchup between Virginia Tech's offense and Tulsa's defense yesterday. Today, let's look at the Hokies' defense vs. Tulsa's offense.
Virginia Tech defense national rankings: 46th in scoring defense (24.2 points allowed per game), 77th in rushing defense (180 yards allowed per game), 9th in passing defense (173.8 yards allowed per game), 34th in total defense (353.8 yards allowed per game)
Tulsa offense national rankings: 25th in scoring offense (35.9 points per game), 63rd in rushing offense (172.92 yards per game), 11th in passing offense (329.8 yards per game), 14th in total offense (502.8 yards per game)
To say that Tulsa's defense was bad this year would be generous. It was downright terrible. How did the Golden Hurricane manage to reach a bowl game? They made it thanks to a stellar season offensively.
Junior quarterback Dane Evans has been a star for Tulsa this season and leads the AAC in passing. He has an impressive 63 percent completion percentage this season with 22 touchdown passes. Tulsa's pass attack is its strength and they will try to spread out the Hokies secondary and get the ball to wide receiver Keyarris Garrett. Garrett is the second-leading receiver in the nation with 1,451 receiving yards and is someone who steps up against better competition. Garrett hauled in 14 catches against both Oklahoma and Memphis.
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Virginia Tech's normally stingy defense is not playing up to the level we have come to expect, but they still boast a top 10 passing defense. While the pass attack is the strength of Tulsa's offense, they do have a deep backfield with D’Angelo Brewer, Zack Langer and Ramadi Warren.
The good news for Virginia Tech is that Evans is not a mobile quarterback. The bad news is that the Golden Hurricane still has plenty of options with which to take advantage of the Hokies' porous rush defense. If Tulsa is struggling to pass, they will turn to that backfield as much as they have to.
Tulsa has averaged over 35 points per game and scored at least 38 points in five of their last six, but the offense will be missing its architect.
Thanks to a prolific season, Texas set its sites on Tulsa offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and did everything they could to bring him to Austin. Texas University president Greg Fenves actually flew out for an in-home visit with Gilbert to convince him to take the Texas coordinator job and it worked. As a result, Gilbert and Tulsa offensive line coach Matt Mattox will not coach in the Independence Bowl.
Can the offense survive one game without its architect? Perhaps, but considering how much Tulsa has leaned on its offense this season, it's a huge blow.
Tulsa wants to get into a shootout with Virginia Tech. Despite their talent at the skilled positions, the Hokies have not shown this season that they have the ability to match Tulsa score for score. If Bud Foster can find even moderate success against the Golden Hurricane, however, it's hard to see how Tulsa's defense will be able to contain Virginia Tech enough to overcome that.
This game will be decided by what Tulsa's offense is able to do against Foster's defense.
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