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Tulsa staying locked in, preparing for challenges of playing at No. 16 Rebels

Tulsa staying locked in, preparing for challenges of playing at No. 16 Rebels

OXFORD, Miss. – Tulsa is the smallest Division I school in the country, but when it comes to Oxford Saturday, the Golden Hurricane has big aspirations.

Tulsa (2-1) is not only looking to knock off a ranked Ole Miss squad, but it is looking for a win against a Power Five school to gain a measure of national respect. To beat Ole Miss (3-0), Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery knows his team must not ride its emotions prior to the game.

I think any time you’re playing against the No. 16 team in the country, guys are going to be geared up ready to play. The good thing that I think our team has done so far this year and hopefully continue to do, is we’re not riding the roller coaster part of it, just be even-keeled about who we are and what we do and how we get there.

Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery on playing Ole Miss

The Golden Hurricane had to get over a season-opening loss at Wyoming in double overtime but rebounded with a close win over Northern Illinois and a rout of Jacksonville (Ala.) State last week.

Montgomery’s players seem to have received the message of controlling their emotions.

“Our coaches have preached to us to try and treat every opponent the same, so really try to get locked in for this one,” senior Bryson Powers said. “But it’s going to be exciting to play in an environment like that, compared to where we’ve played in previous games.”

Keylon Stokes, who ranks second nationally with 28 catches and is third with 457 yards, agrees with his teammate.

“Going into every game, my mindset’s always the same, it never changes,” Stokes added.

I just want to go out there and play to my best ability and all of us receivers, we just go out there and show what we can do. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be an exciting game to go against their DBs and see what it’s going to be like. I can’t wait.”

Tulsa wide receiver Keylon Stokes

Tulsa leads the nation in passing at 413 yards per game and quarterback Davis Brin is college football’s leading passer with 1,206 yards, 402 per game.  Stokes is his favorite target, gaining 152.3 yards per game (third nationally) and JuanCarlos Santana is ninth in the country at 108.7 yards per game.

Confidence in one another appears to be the key to Tulsa’s passing success.

“I just knew in August, I knew that it was going to click,” Stokes said, referring to the beginning of fall camp.

Davis has always been a great quarterback, he’s always been a smart quarterback, he’s always been someone who just wants to score a lot of touchdowns, so just having that mindset, with the receivers that we have, it was bound to be like this. We just got to keep going and keep doing what we have to do.

Keylon Stokes on QB Davis Brin and the Tulsa offense

Montgomery echoed his player’s sentiment.

“Being able to go throw the ball and spread it around the way we’ve been able to do so far, this is going to be a great test for us this weekend,” Montgomery said.

Those guys are playing with confidence, they’ve got a good energy about them, they’re able to kind of feel and read and that part of it is so important for us in what we do. We’ve got to continue to stay in that mode and not try to do more than what we’ve been doing; just be us and go out and perform the way we know we can.”

Tulsa Coach Montgomery on his offense

Saying a team can control its emotion is easy in a press conference. Stokes admitted the thought of playing at Ole Miss has him a little more pumped up than usual.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Stokes said.

Every game that we play is exciting, just that they are ranked and being that they are a top team, it just makes it even more exciting, just to show what we can do against a team like that. They’re a great opponent, they fly around to the ball, they do everything that they’re supposed to do. It’s going to be a great game to see where we’re at.

Keylon Stokes on playing the Rebels

Tulsa will have its work cut out as the Ole Miss defense has been very strong thus far this season. The Rebels’ defense is ranked in the top 25 in the FBS in scoring defense, rushing defense, total defense, first downs allowed per game, sacks, tackles for loss, fourth-down defense, fewest red zone trips allowed, fewest plays of 20 yards or longer allowed, and turnovers forced. Ole Miss is No. 2 in scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 4.33 points per game.

The game kicks off at 3 p.m. and will be broadcast by the SEC Network.

(Feature image credit: Ole Miss Athletics)

Steve Barnes
Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.

He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.

A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.

Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.

He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.

Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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