UC Davis visits Tulsa in season opener for both

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The Tulsa Golden Hurricane return plenty of talent from last season’s 6-3 team, but September’s nonconference schedule will be a tough obstacle.

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane return plenty of talent from last season’s 6-3 team, but September’s nonconference schedule will be a tough obstacle.

On Thursday, head coach Philip Montgomery’s squad kicks off the season by hosting UC Davis in what will likely be the least difficult of its four nonconference affairs in 2021.

After that, the American Athletic Conference team plays road games at a pair of Power Five powerhouses — Oklahoma State and Ohio State — before returning home to play Arkansas State.

Tulsa’s defense finished 19th nationally (333 yards per game) in 2020 and placed second in the AAC in three defensive categories — scoring, passing and total.

Quarterback Davis Brin will guide a unit that returns almost everyone, including the five starting linemen plus X’Zauvea Gadlin (COVID-19 opt out) and newcomer Bryce Bray, a former starter at Oklahoma State.

Injured with a torn ACL in the week leading up to last year’s opener, running back Shamari Brooks returns to lead a talented, deep backfield.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound hometown product is chasing Tulsa’s career rushing record held by D’Angelo Brewer, who amassed 3,917 yards from 2014 to 2017.

Fifth on Tulsa’s rushing list, Brooks has posted 2,700 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on 575 carries (4.7 per rush) during his Golden Hurricane career.

“We are just going to be smart with him,” said Montgomery. “We know what Shamari brings to the table, obviously with the knee injury last year, he has worked out all summer and he has done all the change of direction things.”

UC Davis — an FCS school — played five games this spring, posting a 3-2 record and putting up big offensive numbers.

The Aggies averaged 39.8 points per game, and quarterback Hunter Rodrigues should again be a key part of UC Davis’ success with the ball.

One of 44 players on the College Football Performance Awards preseason watch list for the 2021 FCS National Performer of the Year Trophy, the junior was 78 of 119 for 931 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.

He threw for three scores and rushed for another in the Aggies’ 73-24 win over Cal Poly on March 20.

“The spring season was really good for us for a variety of reasons,” said UC Davis head coach Dan Hawkins. “It was good for everyone’s mental health to get back on the field and play some games. We got that camaraderie back.”

–Field Level Media

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