HUNTINGTON -The sack exchange - otherwise known as the Tulsa Golden Hurricane defense -will pay a visit to the Marshall University campus on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
"Tulsa's team this year starts with its defense," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "They have 26 sacks, which is unheard of at this point. About 50 percent of the time, they are coming after you in one way or another - whether it is pressure from the edges or the backers.
"They do put a lot of pressure on your offense as far as blitzing is concerned. Their defensive guys move around a lot because of the blitz packages they have."
Tulsa (4-1, 2-0 Conference USA) enters the contest having won four straight, including the last two by seven points or less. Last week in Birmingham, Ala., the Golden Hurricane added six sacks to their Division-I leading total in a 49-42 victory against UAB.
Linebacker DeAundre Brown and defensive end Jared St. John have accounted for five sacks apiece, while defensive tackle Daeshon Bufford has contributed 3.5.
Who: Tulsa (4-1)
at Marshall (2-3)
What: Conference USA game
When: 3:30 p.m. today
Where: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington
TV: CBS Sports Network
Tulsa's leading returning tackler from a year ago is Shawn Jackson, who was suspended for the first three games this season after violating team policy. In just two games, the junior linebacker has recorded 18 tackles, including three tackles for loss.
Marshall's offensive line will be tested. Through five games, it has responded while giving quarterback Rakeem Cato enough time to throw for 1,920 yards and 15 touchdowns on 187-of-268 passing (69.8 percent). The sophomore ranks first in the country in total offense (1,951), completions and passing yards.
"If you can line up, make the proper read, the proper hot and if you can protect then you have a shot," Holliday said. "Against UAB last week, Tulsa gave up some big plays. At times, they will go man-to-man. They're very aggressive in all phases that they do."
Last week in a 51-41 loss to Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., Cato finished with a career-high 439 yards through the air and upped his career touchdown total to 30, which ranks him 11th in school history. Five more touchdown completions and he will move into a tie for 10th place with Eric Kresser (1996).
Wide receiver Tommy Shuler, who was named C-USA's Offensive Player of the Week after hauling in a school-record 19 receptions for 200 yards, has given Cato a bona fide threat.
"I'm happy with where we are on offense, but we have to take better care of the ball," Holliday said.
Despite its 2-3 record, Marshall remains in the hunt for a possible C-USA East Division title at 1-0. The Thundering Herd have never defeated Tulsa in three previous meetings. Last year in Tulsa, Okla., the Golden Hurricane jumped out to a 42-3 halftime lead and won, 59-17.
In that game, running back Trey Watts rushed for 144 yards. This year, he ranks second on the team with 363 yards. Tops on the list is Ja'Terian Douglas at 374 yards. Tulsa quarterback Cody Green (85-of-166, 9 TDs) was a former starter as a true freshman at Nebraska.
Marshall's defense, which ranks last in Division I in scoring defense (44.4 points per game) is looking to shore up several holes.