Tulsa Does Tulsa Things and Clips Sparrows 27-20
The fans wanted it. The league wanted it. Even your curling loving Norwegian neighbors wanted it. For the third time this season a Central Division matchup took center stage on Primetime SFL. This time it featured two of the remaining undefeated teams in the Tulsa Desperados and the Sioux Falls Sparrows.
Tulsa reached 3-0 after breaking out the turnover machine that they have become against Indianapolis. They were able to hold off a furious offensive charge by the Red Devils in a hard fought battle.
Sioux Falls escaped the Swarm in a tight defensive battle that saw both offenses struggle. The Sparrows were able to kick their way to victory with 4 field goals in absolute trench war.
Trust the D and the Wins Will Follow
Tulsa is now 4-0 and they have absolutely defined their style. There have been many teams who have had mediocre offenses with excellent defenses that have excelled and have even won championships. Teams with good enough run games and gam manager QBs. But few have been as timely and opportunistic as this Tulsa D. Like a trusted best friend swooping in for your girlfriend after a breakup Tulsa have been relentless and devastating.
Up until the 4th quarter the Tulsa offense hadn’t really been a factor. The Sparrows had limited Hawkins on the ground and isolated his bigger runs. At one point Hawkins became more affective catching out of the backfield. Sioux Falls was able to apply pressure on QB Robinson with a couple sacks early. They were seemingly in comfortable control of the game until Tulsa did what Tulsa does. Perfectly time turnovers.
With most of the second quarter gone Nate Hezlep got it started with an interception and 12 yard return to setup a short field which resulted in a Hawkins outside run for a TD. On the very next Sioux Falls drive HB Robert Redford fumbled giving Tulsa a chance for a 52 yd field goal which was expertly converted by Joseph Carroll. With :14 on the clock and within 30-40 seconds of game time Tulsa had gone from down 14 to within 4.
Tulsa currently has the 14th ranked pass game and the 6th run offense. A decent setup but maybe not an offense you would attribute to a 4-0 team. They are also 13th in 3rd down conversions. The defense’s ability to get a majority of their turnovers in enemy territory and typically deep in that territory gives the Tulsa offense short fields and an easier time putting up points.
No play highlighted this ability more than the 4th quarter blocked punt that would setup a great one handed catch by WR Sonzo Robinson to tie the game. The Tulsa timeliness was able to infect the offense just enough for the final drive as well. A 3 and out by Sioux Falls set up good field position (for the average team) for QB Robinson who was able to continuously connect with Sonzo Robinson where WR Knighten caught a crossing route and weaved his way to the pylon for the TD that would end up winning the game for Tulsa 27-20.
Notable Stat: Tulsa didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until the middle of the 2nd quarter
Sparrows Flight Limited on Two Fronts
Nobody would accuse the Sioux Falls Sparrows of being a high powered juggernaut offense but they are more than capable of holding their own. Going up against a great defense in Tulsa was going to be a challenge enough but that got exceedingly more difficult early in the 1st quarter.
After a great diving catch by WR Shaun Harrelson he was unable to get back up. The later injury report would indicate a knee injury that would not see him return. At the time of the injury Sioux Falls had been driving on Tulsa and Harrelson had already put up 63yds on just 3 catches. The sudden turn of events placed much more pressure on WR Moore and while he had a good game the absence was felt.
Tulsa played great D all game as was expected but now they were able to really put the pressure on. Moore was being bracketed all game while Tulsa dared Sioux Falls to have their wide receiver depth make plays. HB Robert Redford was impressive as he pure powered to an extremely hard earned 70yds on 21 carries with a TD while Tulsa loaded the box. He had multiple runs where he broke tackles in the backfield to salvage jail breaks by blitzing linebackers.
Despite the valiant efforts of both Moore and Redford when the plays mattered the most the Harrelson injury reared its ugly head (or knee). The backup WR that replaced Harrelson had 3 big drops at crucial points. One looked to be a potential breakaway TD as a Tulsa corner sold out on the deflection and found only air with the other two drops on the final drive. The last drop would seal the game which should have continued the last Sioux Falls possession for an easy 1st on 4th down.
While the offensive performance can’t be totally laid at the feet of the injury, much credit needs to be given to Tulsa one does wonder how the game would have played out if both teams were able to have their full complement of key players.
Notable Stat: Sioux Falls went 3-13 on 3rd down and had none midway through the 3rd quarter
The Division of Blood and Mud
While this isn’t about this game in particular the Sioux Falls, Tulsa game does symbolize the environment and culture of the Central Division. Five of the six teams are in the top 9 in yards allowed (CHI, SXF, IND, TUL, OKC) and four of the six are in the top 8 in points allowed (SFX, CHI, TUL, STL). The Central is the land of grit and determination where if you aren’t ready and willing to pay the toll of Blood and Mud you just aren’t going to make it here.
Notable Stat: The average Central Division opponent spends 10 more minutes in the ice bath after the game than the average SFL player while also making 1.5 calls to their mommies for comfort which is 1.5 calls more than Central players make.
Game MVP: QB Sir Charles Robinson 16/25 – 189yds – 2 TDs – 96.9 QBR
Highlight of the Game: 4th quarter punt is blocked by Tulsa which is followed by a one handed falling catch by WR Robinson to tie the game
Looking Forward to Week 5
Tulsa continues their pursuit of perfection against resent member of the win club 1-4 San Francisco
Sioux Falls matches Tulsa’s path by taking on another team in Oklahoma City who was able to get their first win via an upset against Indy