Tulsa faces more adversity vs. Boise

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
3:00
PM ET
This was supposed to be a game pitting two of the best non-AQ quarterbacks in the nation.

Instead, Tulsa may have to start redshirt freshman Kalen Henderson on the road against No. 4 Boise State and Kellen Moore on Saturday.

The Golden Hurricane are faced with a tough situation in their third game of the season against a top-10 opponent. Veteran starter G.J. Kinne hurt his knee last week against Oklahoma State, and the team has practiced as if he will not play. Henderson went in and replaced him, going 7-of-23 for 109 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in the 59-33 loss.

[+] EnlargeKalen Henderson
AP Photo/Dave CrenshawKalen Henderson may get the call to start Saturday against Boise State.
It is a tough task for anybody to go into Bronco Stadium and start, let alone a freshman with only a few quarters under his belt.

“I think he was justifiably nervous and a little shaky -- to say the least -- in his debut,” coach Bill Blankenship said of Henderson. “He’d gotten a few snaps at Tulane, but prior to that this is his first significant experience in college football. I was very proud that he settled down and began to manage the offense a little better. We didn’t take care of the ball very well and that has to be an improvement. You try to look at the positives and he led our team to 27 points against a top-10 defense. I think we have something to build on. He’s on a crash course now and he’ll get better and more prepared for Boise State.”

Kinne, the reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, hasn’t been completely ruled out, so there is still a chance he could play. Whether he does or not, there is no arguing how tough a stretch Tulsa has had to endure to start the season.

It opened the year with a loss at No. 1 Oklahoma, won at Tulane, then lost to No. 8 Oklahoma State. That game started after midnight following a long weather delay, making the situation tough on the players and coaches. They squeezed in some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a second pregame meal before taking the field.

But the tough opening schedule, late starting game and Kinne injury are just the latest bits of adversity to face the team. Top all-purpose player Damaris Johnson remains suspended indefinitely after he and his girlfriend were charged with embezzlement.

Boise State, meanwhile, has continued to get Heisman Trophy-worthy play from Moore, even with a new group of starting receivers. Much has been made of the Broncos losing Titus Young and Austin Pettis, but Moore has adjusted well without them.

Last week against Toledo, he threw for 455 yards and five touchdown passes. So far this season, 10 different players have caught at least one pass. Doug Martin has been effective out of the backfield catching passes and actually leads the team with 147 yards receiving -- in large part because of a short pass he turned into a 71-yard touchdown against the Rockets.

“He’s taken advantage of the past offseason and gotten stronger, faster, and he’s a smarter football player, from my perspective,” Moore said in a phone interview. “We’ve gotten him the ball in some passing situations with some screens and you can see what he does when he gets the ball in space. He can make guys miss.”

Tyler Shoemaker has emerged as a go-to guy in clutch situations; four of his six receptions have gone for touchdowns.

“Shoe’s been playing for a little while. We redshirted together and went through this whole process together,” Moore said. “The other two players here previously had done a lot of things, and he had been the next guy, so it’s huge for him to get opportunities. He’s had a e few opportunities to score touchdowns in the red zone, which is great for him.”

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