Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A look at the key matchup that could decide the Armed Forces Bowl.
G.J. Kinne, QB, Tulsa vs. Brandon Ogletree, Kyle Van Noy, and Uona Kaveinga, LBs, BYU.
With all due respect to Riley Nelson, who caught fire down the stretch for the Cougars, the individual head-to-head quarterback matchup nonetheless should favor the Golden Hurricane. Kinne is a three-year senior starter with more than 9,200 career passing yards to his name, 1,300 rushing yards, and 23 career wins; by this point, it's not possible for the former Texas transfer to have any better command of Tulsa's trademark no-huddle spread scheme than he already does.
And while that's certainly translated to plenty of aerial fireworks for the Golden Hurricane during Kinne's three years under center, it's paid equally handsome dividends in the ground game. In fact, behind Tulsa's three-headed rushing monster of Kinne and tailbacks Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts -- and said monster's 2,149 total rushing yards -- the 2011 edition of the Golden Hurricane get more done on the ground (23rd FBS) than in the passing game (43rd). While Douglas and Watts deserve more than their fair share of plaudits -- Douglas's eye-popping 8.2 yards-per-carry average led the nation among backs with any more than 60 attempts, and he had 110! -- the Tulsa rushing attack still starts with Kinne and his ability to execute the options and zone reads that make up the core of the Golden Hurricane's rushing philosophy.
But as smooth an operator as Kinne is, he's still going to have his hands full with Ogletree, Van Noy, and Kaveinga, three of the Cougars' top four tacklers and three-quarters of a linebacking crew that's led the Cougars to a 16th-place finish in FBS total defense. All three are both aggressive and fundamentally sound, and they'll be the defenders primarily tasked with containing Kinne and his option targets on the ground. If Ogletree, Van Noy, and Kaveinga stay on assignment, hold Douglas's home-run ability in check, hit Kinne hard enough to slow him down in both phases of the game, and generally make life on the ground as tough as possible for the Golden Hurricane, Nelson should be able to put enough points on the board vs. Tulsa's rickety pass defense to earn the victory.
But if not? If Kinne gets the Tulsa ground game humming on all cylinders, finds in turn the inevitable space opening up downfield for big plays in the air, and hangs a 40-spot on the Cougars? That's the sort of hurdle even Nelson may not be able to clear.