Chuck Landon: Marshall can collect on Tulsa's gambling
Welcome to the Joan C. Edwards Casino.
That will be the scenario when Marshall hosts Tulsa at 3:30 p.m., Saturday.
It will be the site of the most gambling, most wagering, most betting this side of the Mardi Gras West Virginia Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes.
Want to bet?
Tulsa certainly does.
That's the way the Golden Hurricane plays the game.
Instead of calling defenses, Tulsa's defensive coordinator says, "Gentlemen, place your bets." Then, that's precisely what the Golden Hurricane's ramblin', gamblin' defense does.
It rolls the dice.
Over and over again.
Sometimes a seven comes up. That's why Tulsa leads the nation in tackles for loss with 55, including an astonishing 26 sacks.
But sometimes it craps out. That's why Tulsa allowed Nicholls State -- insert your own nickel slots joke here -- to roll up 370 yards total offense. That's also why Tulsa barely escaped with a 49-42 triumph over winless UAB last Saturday.
That's how gambling works.
Sometimes you cash a ticket, sometimes you lose the rent money.
It's a risk Tulsa coach Bill "Blackjack" Blankenship obviously is willing to take.
"About 50 percent of the time they're coming after you in some way, shape or form," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday of Tulsa's blitz-happy defense. "Whether it's pressure from the edges, the linebackers or whatever, they put a lot of pressure on you as far as blitzing is concerned.
"Their defensive guys, they move around a lot because of the blitz packages that they have."
Do they ever.
Just ask Marshall offensive lineman Jordan Jeffries.
"It's a totally different defensive look for us," said the junior left tackle, referring to Purdue. "At Tulsa, they do a lot of moving. They bring a lot of linebackers off the edge. They spike the ends inside. So, we just know we have to block movement this week to give Cato (quarterback Rakeem Cato) time."
That's imperative because Tulsa's defense is as diverse as it is gambling. That's why defensive end Jared St. John and middle linebacker DeAundre Brown share the team-lead in sacks with five apiece, while 292-pound defensive tackle Daeshon Bufford has 3.5.
"That shows how well they move and how well that defense schemes," said Jeffries. "That's all we're going to work on this week is blocking movement and being patient."
But gambling is a twin-edged sword -- in casinos or football stadiums. And often the house wins.
"Anytime you're blitzing, you are gambling," said Jeffries. "You gamble like that a lot, people are going to make you pay. So, now, we just need to make sure we make them play more than they make us pay."
In football, sometimes that is a bet a defense can't cover.
"Anytime you bring a lot of heat on the quarterback," said Jeffries, "they are in Cover Zero (pure man-to-man with no deep defender).
"That gives a lot of open area for our receivers to make plays. So, as long as we can give Cato time to throw the ball, he's going to make them pay."
That's why Marshall's offensive line is one of the crucial keys to this game.
"A lot of times with movement, you can take them where they want to go," explained Jeffries. "You can create holes that way and really pass a lot of things off. But if you get ahead of yourself, that movement will kill you."
That's what the Herd has to avoid.
MU can't let that be gambling Tulsa's ace in the hole.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at email@example.com.
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