Nov 28, 201710:14 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
Saints and Green Wave take losses
Banks. Was. In.
If I only had three words to write in the column it would be those three — Banks was in. On a day, when the Tulane Green Wave (5-7) mounted a 13-point comeback and were inches away from their first bowl game in four seasons, the men in stripes robbed the Green Wave of glory and called Jonathan Banks down an inch away from the end zone when the replay obviously showed that Banks scored the go-ahead touchdown that would’ve won the game. Instead it was the SMU Mustangs (7-5) who ran off the field with a 41-38 win.
It makes sense that it was Banks with the football in his hand with the season on the line. The junior quarterback quickly established himself this season as Tulane’s star and Saturday would be no different. The coaches have finally unleashed Banks’ throwing arm (possibly a little too late) and Banks threw for 314 yards with two touchdowns while adding 48 yards on the ground. This kid is a player.
When Tulane needed it most, Banks rose again to the occasion. Banks carried the Green Wave on his back the last two minutes of the game, completing passes to Jacob Robertson Jr. and Charles Jones. Banks then hit standout wide receivers Darnell Mooney for 18 yards and Terren Encalade for another 19-yard chunk setting up the dramatic finish in which Tulane’s first bowl trip since 2013 was stolen from the Green Wave, not by the opposing Mustangs defense but American Athletic Conference referees.
This last game was a microcosm of the entire season. It was a year met with high hopes and the opportunity was there in the end but the team just fell short. It was a year heavy with “should’ve” and “could’ve” and just a touch too light on victories. Tulane was a team that could ill afford to be upset but were just that on the road by a surprisingly solid Florida International (7-4) team and at home in a maddening loss to a bad University of Cincinnati (4-8) team.
However, it’s a year where the good outweighed the bad. Coach Fritz’s Tulane clubs play with fire in their belly and should never be counted out of any game. The Green Wave posted comeback victories over Army and Houston and gutted out an overtime win at East Carolina. This team has heart. Yes, the team ended up with a 5-7 record, improving only by one win over last year’s 4-8 campaign, but this team is light years ahead of the past and the Green Wave’s future is very bright.
Goin’ Back to Cali
Nah, I don’t think so. As in, the New Orleans Saints (8-3) should hope their playoff road does not include another trip to play the Los Angeles Rams (8-3). Say what you want about not having the starting cornerbacks but it was an offensive let down that led to the Saints 26-20 loss.
Yes, Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley were not in uniform and, while we’re at it, let’s not forget Delvin Breaux has been injured all season. But the thing is, none of those guys play offense. None of those guys block for Drew Brees or create separation downfield in the receiving ranks. They’re on defense and, at the end of the day, the defense played well enough to win the game. Except that is, for De'Vante Harris.
The frustration was on the offensive side of the ball on a day that saw Brees harassed all game by the Rams defensive line and, when he had the opportunity, settled for dinking and dunking the ball in an ineffective passing attack.
The Rams defense came prepared and seemed to be ready for anything the Saints called. So much so, that the Saints went away from their reliable rushing attack fairly early. Mark Ingram would only get 11 carries for 37 yards and outside of rookie sensation Alvin Kamara’s 74-yard touchdown gallop in the first quarter the run game was silent. So much so that Kamara, the rookie from Tennessee, would only collect 13 yards on four other carries.
Kamara would add 101 yards on 6 catches because the kid is part dynamite but the air attack was largely non-existent with no deep balls and could count at least three potential interceptions thrown by Brees that the L.A. defensive backs mercifully dropped.
The Rams kept everyone in front of them and, for the most part, ate up the Saints screen game. The Rams defensive line would collect three sacks and a forced fumble on what seemed like a day they would blow out the Saints but, hey, if you have to put any feathers in this game’s cap I guess it would be that the Black and Gold actually had a shot in the end.
Fear not, New Orleans. This was just one of those games you put behind you. The Saints and their All-World running back Alvin Kamara return to the Superdome to host the Carolina Panthers Dec. 3, at 3:25 p.m. in an important NFC South clash. Who Dat.
The NFC South is heading towards a wild finish this year. Keep an eye out this Friday for my bonus story about the NFC South and the Saints playoff push.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Wayward Owl Brewing’s “Tawny Twit” English Pale Bitter
Playlist Recommendation: Southern University Marching Band Halftime Show
Around the Way
The Grambling State Tigers (10-1) are on a hell of a run through the SWAC after defeating a tough Southern Jaguars squad 31-20 in the 44th annual Bayou Classic. It is the Tigers 25th-straight SWAC victory and 10th win in a row on the year.
The Tigers face Alcorn State (7-4) on Dec. 2 at the 3:30 p.m. in the SWAC Championship in Houston, Texas. Grambling State pummeled Alcorn State 41-14 earlier this season. The winner of the SWAC championship will move on to the Celebration Bowl to battle the North Carolina A&T Aggies (11-0), champions of the MEAC.