Tulsa learning how to cope with success

Updated: October 6, 2003, 7:15 PM ET

TULSA, Okla. -- Steve Kragthorpe gave his players a message Monday morning that few recent Tulsa coaches have had to give. The first-year coach told his team how to cope with success.

After winning just two games in 2002 and 2001, the Golden Hurricane have won three straight, including a 27-16 comeback win Saturday over preseason conference favorite Hawaii.

"People will start to take notice of you," Kragthorpe said. "We're not going to sneak up on anybody anymore."

That includes Boise State, the defending Western Athletic Conference champion and the next opponent on Tulsa's schedule. Tulsa visits the Broncos Saturday night.

Tulsa (3-2, 1-0 WAC) rebounded from lopsided losses in its first two games against No. 21 Minnesota and No. 7 Arkansas with wins over Division I-AA Texas State and Arkansas State.

"We can't control how other teams prepare for us, how they view us or how their fans view us or how their media views us," he said. "All we can control is ourselves, so that's what we're going to continue to focus on."

The Golden Hurricane are taking the dramatic turnaround in stride. Kragthorpe has shifted from injecting confidence into players accustomed to losing, to keeping them focused on how they got there.

"Our guys are very even keel right now. That's the approach I like to take. I like to take a very businesslike approach to preparation," said Kragthorpe, who has a masters degree in business administration. "We're not going to vary our preparation. We're not going to change just because we won three games in a row."

A big reason for Tulsa's success has been quarterback James Killian, last year's backup who emerged after Tyler Gooch transferred to Oklahoma to play baseball.

Against Hawaii, Killian led the team in passing, rushing and receiving yards with 106, 150 and 35, respectively. The Oklahoma native doesn't slide before approaching tacklers, and his rugged style has spurred teammates.

"I think he still thinks he's in Medford playing against 150-pound guys rather than 250 pound guys, because there's been a couple of times when I've been like, "James, get down, man,'"' Kragthorpe said.

Another spark has been Tulsa's defense, which kept statistician's calculators' humming last year by giving up yards in large chunks. Three Golden Hurricane defenders have been named WAC defensive players of the week.

Defensive end Jeremy Davis is the latest, the conference announced Monday. Davis sacked Hawaii quarterbacks three times for minus-19 yards.

"He's another guy like James Killian where he's starting to see that hard work pays off," Kragthorpe said. "His performance on Saturday night is just a mirror image of the things he's doing Monday through Friday."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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