Bruce Howard has served as the voice of Tulsa football for 26 years.
In that time, Howard has seen six head coaching changes, four conference changes and eleven Oklahoma State vs. Tulsa matchups.
This Saturday, Tulsa is playing OSU for the 73rd time in school history.
Howard previewed this matchup on the O’Colly’s “In the Novo” podcast on Monday. Here are some of the highlights:
Q: Tulsa's first game against Michigan State. You guys had negative-73 rushing yards. Then you guys bounced back last week and had 262 rushing yards vs. San Jose State. Is Game 3 going to be more like that Michigan State game, or is it going to be more like that San Jose State game?
A: Yeah, well you hope, of course, it's more like the San Jose State game. You know, the minus-73 was a little bit of a misnomer because as you know with statistics, you know, any sacks get taken off the rushing total and Tulsa had six sacks plus they had two bad snaps that resulted in I think in minus-45 in yardage. So that minus-73 probably wasn't really an accurate portrayal of Tulsa's running game. And Tulsa did not run the wall ball especially well against Michigan State, but it wasn't minus-73 when you think about the pure, you know, running game. And so they, they definitely focused on rushing to the ball and rushing it well and they did that in San Jose obviously this past Saturday. So they did a very nice job and had the one guy over a hundred and another guy almost approaching 100 yards. Anytime you can do that and you have good balance, you feel pretty good about it.
Q: The fan base there kind of looks at (Tulsa’s 28-7 loss) as a positive, as positive as a 21-point loss can be. So what's your outlook on this?
A: Yeah, that game was one where you knew you probably have some trouble, you know, with the defense of Michigan State had. I mean they were the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation last year and they came into this year with what I think nine out of the 11 guys coming back. So they're very, very good. I'm not certain Tulsa will go up against a defense any better than that one all season long. And in that said, Tulsa came in with the offensive line that’s fairly young and I'm not going to say it was cobbled together because they knew what they were doing, but it was an offensive line that had young guys that hadn't had a whole lot of starts. So that was not a good combination for Tulsa offensively. They were able to get the one touchdown just before halftime and Tulsa’s defense I thought played really well in that game, they got put into some quick-change situations, which were not positive, but the defense reacted pretty well. So I thought the result was somewhat of what people kind of expected it, especially those inside the game. Michigan State's office is still trying to find itself and Tulsa's defense played well and did some very good things. So that result, as it came in, not terribly surprising. And then, you know, this past week, I think Michigan State put up 44 against their second opponent. So not bad. You always want to win the game and you always think you can. And there were some things that could have happened that would have allowed Tulsa to have a chance to win that game, just didn't turn out that way. And TU got off to kind of a bad start in that game against Michigan State. But the result overall I think is gonna show up pretty well. I think Michigan State, especially if they get their offense gone, it's going to be a pretty good team.
Q: So let's talk about quarterback Zack Smith for a little bit. Zach Smith Played Oklahoma State last in 2017. His Baylor Bears lost 59-16, and he had just 127 yards and a 39.3 completion percentage. How do you think Smith is going to fare this time?
A: Well, hopefully he'll fare better than that. Obviously OSU has a very talented and aggressive defense; they're very good. They stymied him obviously that day. Of course, that's a couple of years ago and a lot has happened since then. He had some good games at Baylor, certainly. There were some games where he did very well. In fact, over 460 yards against OU that same season. So the good thing coming into this year was that he had that experience. He kinda had to knock the rust off a little bit because he had to take last year off and ran the scout team and ‘I'm still part of practice’ and all that, but didn’t get to play in games as he transferred. Now I think you're just starting to see things really sharpen up for him. Last week I thought he was really good against the San Jose State. He was 21-of-28 for 283 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions. Didn’t put the ball in a lot of trouble. Tulsa didn’t turn the ball over. When you get an operator that can do that, not turn the ball over and then throw for nearly 300 yards, you've got a really good chance to win, and that's what Tulsa did. So I think Zach's got a chance to have a really good season. Let's hope that continues, for the Hurricane’s sake, let's hope it continues on Saturday against the Pokes.
Q: In this state Bruce, as I'm sure you know, we've got three big-time college football programs here, but on the radio and in all the sports coverage they really only cover one team down there in Norman. So what are the main narratives for Tulsa coming into this game that people might not know about because people just aren't talking about it?
A: Well when it comes to OSU Tulsa, it's quite a history. What is it approaching, 70 some odd games? Approaching 70 games in the entire series. And it is something that when I first started doing the broadcast in the mid ’90s, at that point it was pretty much a home and home series. You played one year at home and the next year you played in Stillwater. And during those years, there were some Tulsa victories. They were mostly OSU victories, but there were a couple of times obviously that Tulsa picked up a win. And then there was a period of time when Tulsa, OSU didn't play a whole lot. Then that got resurrected maybe five, 10 years ago. And so the Golden Hurricane and OSU, with those great number of games against each other, it was good to see that kind of continuing to get going again. Now if you heard the recent news, Tulsa and OSU signed a fairly lengthy deal, a home and away type series. I think it's good for both schools. I mean, Tulsa fans can go down to Stillwater and watch a game down there. There's a huge alumni base for Oklahoma State here in Tulsa, so it's an extra game that Cowboy fans here in Tulsa can go to without having to travel down to Stillwater. So I think it's a situation where it would seem to work marketing wise for Oklahoma State because this is such an important alumni area, and it certainly works for Tulsa because they’re about to get a decent crowd here on Saturday. So I think those are some of the storylines. You can certainly get into the slicing and dicing to the X's and O's and all that sort of thing. But I think in general it's a heck of a game for the city of Tulsa.
Q: Are you expecting more orange or more blue in the crowd on Saturday?
A: Well, we hope more blue. I’m trying to think of the last time Oklahoma State played in Tulsa was that infamous game back in 2011 when there was a rain storm and all sorts of issues with the weather and they finally got the game going at 12:00 or 12:15 in the morning. But yeah, it's been awhile. Like I said, there'll be some from Stillwater that are Cowboy fans I'm sure that will come, but there will be more Oklahoma State fans who are here in Tulsa that are gonna make the trip over to 11th and Harvard and watch the game. But I can remember back in the days, Ryan, there would be a really good mix of OSU and Tulsa fans and it would be anywhere from 60 to 40 in favor of the Tulsa fans and sometimes a little bit more on the OSU side. Sometimes it'd be more towards the 50, 50. But we want bodies in the seats, certainly. We want a great atmosphere and I think when you have a situation where you have a goodly number of both teams fans in the stands, I think it's good. I think it's great for college football.
Q: If Tulsa's going to upset its in-state rival on Saturday, what's it going to take?
A: Well, it's going to take the Tulsa defense playing lights out, playing very well and slowing down that really high-powered OSU offense. I mean Tulsa, I would say defensively, probably has to keep the game in the 20s, low 30s in order to have a chance to win. And then obviously Zach Smith's got to have a great game. Offensive line, which we mentioned of course is a little bit young, they're going to have to carve out some holes. Tulsa has gotta be balanced or it'll be a difficult game. So those are the things Tulsa has to do in order to win, but I think it starts with Tulsa's defense being able to slow down that high-powered OSU offense. So I think that's where it starts for Tulsa to win.