Owls-Golden Hurricane: Five Things To Watch

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Like a candle flickering in a faint breeze, Ryan Lewis provided hope for illumination to most everyone who watched the first half of the Owls' home opener. He displayed surprising mobility, somewhat startling arm strength and, most importantly, Lewis showcased a modest command of the offense operating in relief of John Thomas Shepherd, who himself was starting only because Nick Fanuzzi was sidelined with a Grade-1 right shoulder separation.

For a fleeting series of moments Lewis left most everyone feeling that everything would be OK no matter how long Fanuzzi was sidelined. Everyone recognized that Lewis possessed talent and cool, but to watch it manifest in an actual game enabled all concerned parties to exhale.

Then, during the course of the Owls' most labor-intensive drive of the first half, Lewis absorbed a succession of vicious blows that yielded a negative cumulative effect. In the second half he wasn't as calm or collected, and he certainly was nowhere near as accurate. He was clearly frazzled, a victim of a two-year layoff combined with a ferocious series of hits. By the close of the night we were left wondering what was next for Lewis and how he would respond when given another opportunity to climb aboard that horse and ride once more.

Ryan Lewis, your steed awaits. The Owls' offense is in need of your moxie and leadership.

1. In Search of ... Stephen Reaves. Yes, the similarities are striking. In 2007, the Owls opened the season with a loss to what many assumed was an inferior opponent, then dropped three consecutive games in decisive fashion to BCS opponents. They followed that 0-4 start with a surprising win at Southern Miss thanks in no small part to Reaves' four interceptions and the Golden Eagles' seven turnovers. Chances are good G.J. Kinne has no intentions of tossing four picks, but if someone wants to exchange his No. 4 jersey for the No. 12, go right ahead.

2. Turnover No. 6! The Owls have forced only five turnovers (including just one interception) this season. No matter how resilient the effort, the defense won't survive against the Golden Hurricane without takeaways. And it's not like the injury-ravaged offense couldn't use a little help in the possessions and field position departments. Someone - anyone - pick and pounce.

3. Solly Feels Like Bustin' Loose. Surely this is the game in which junior defensive end Scott Solomon wreaks havoc and spends most of the evening in the opposing backfield? Solomon has received a disproportionate amount of attention from opposing offenses, and the number of chip blocks he gets from tight ends and tailbacks must be wearing on his patience. But Tulsa has started two left tackles, three left guards and two centers over its first four games. Its line has had problems protecting Kinne, so the time is right for Solomon to finally break out.

4. Breathe In, Breathe Out. Hey, Charles Ross, be sure to get a good night's sleep. Word on the street is that your workload is set to increase 20-fold. You were scheduled for similar duties against Vanderbilt before you lost your breath and couldn't get it back following your breathtaking touchdown run against the Commodores. Your problem is nothing a sizable dose of albuterol can't cure, so load up on the inhalers and get primed to carry one weary offense.

5. Let's Go Crazy! Well, let's get reckless and open up that playbook! It is totally justifiable that Coach Z opted to play it close to the vest against Texas Tech and Vanderbilt given his overwhelmed O-line and the issues of his ineffective and inexperienced quarterbacks. And while Tulsa has superior athletes, the advantage isn't so galling that the Owls should be limited to the conservative pages in their playbook. The time has come to empty the clip and come out with guns blazing. This offense needs to be given a chance to prove it's trustworthy.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

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I will be greatly disappointed if the playbook isn't opened up. We absolutely have to create situations that produce doubt in the defense. Simply running straight ahead plays and pass routes that don't confuse will just send us to our 5th straight defeat.

I want to see the D fly like they did last week and hopefully the night will end before they have to play 75 plays.

If Solomon can draw a crowd it doesn't matter if he records the sack. It frees up someone else to make the hit. It's not big on the stat sheet but just as effective. The Owls got decent pressure on Vandy. If they can do the same tonight it will help diminish the deep strike capability of Tulsa.

Has a starter been named at QB? Are we likely to see the carousel continue? Is rain going to slow down both offenses?

Owl-88: I'd put my money on Lewis starting and getting the majority of reps unless he falls flat on his face. - MK

Any chance we see more of the "Ross" formation this week? In instances that aren't just goal line situations?

Key to this game will be QB play (yet again) and the D forcing turnovers. If the D plays like they did against Vandy for the first 3 quarters, they'll force some turnovers against a Tulsa offense that puts the ball up for risk more often than Vandy.

Talon: Methinks you will be pleased with how often Ross is used tonight. - MK

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