There are many parallels between college football and growing up – especially in the first weeks of the season. The opening of the season is a time where the little guys of college football have to fight much bigger guys, and worse…on the bigger guy’s turf. The little guys often only hope to look good, knowing defeat is all but guaranteed, while also wanting to show the world that they belong. It’s a scenario the heavy underdog Tulane Green Wave are used to and once again faced this past weekend as they travelled to Winston Salem to take on the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest.
The Green Wave rolled into North Carolina feeling good about its defense but with question marks floating around the Tulane offense – What style of offense would Tulane play? Would Dontrell Hilliard be the go-to back? Would coach Willie Fritz employ a passing attack?
The Green Wave would truly answer only one of these questions – Tulane only attempted 23 passes against 47 rushing attempts. Obviously some of these rushes were due to quarterback Glen Cuiellette escaping the pocket on a pass play, but more often than not, the Green Wave were committed to grounding out yardage via the run.
But it would be Cuiellette, in his first start – and not junior Dontrell Hilliard – that would lead Tulane with 22 rushing attempts. Cuiellette, running the option, more often than not elected to keep the ball and cut inside, instead of feeding it to a trailing back. The Green Wave running backs – four in total – would only carry the ball 23 times, with Hilliard – perceived to be “the man” heading into the season – only getting seven carries for 36 yards. Which, once again, put Hilliard at his usual five yards a carry mark.
Through the air, Cuiellette looked like a capable quarterback. He didn’t fill the stat sheet but throughout the game made some surprisingly strong passes for a “rookie.” Cuiellette would hit two big-time throws in the fourth quarter that both got the Angry Wave fans contemplating victory. The first – and physically most impressive – was a 46-yard pass to Josh Rounds down the sideline. Every yard of the completion was through the air, and it was delivered without much effort. Cuiellette would later lead Devon Breaux into a tippy-toe catch on the sideline for 17 yards to extend a last ditch effort by Tulane. Both impressive plays, but both would lead to no points.
That was the name of the game. Tulane, after netting a 41-yard field goal by Andrew DiRocco on the opening drive, couldn’t score a touchdown. Yet, due to an impressive performance by the defense, the boys on Willow Street were in the hunt for victory all night long. Tanzel Smart, rightly selected to the preseason AAC first team defense, led a stifling defensive charge that would only allow the Demon Deacons offense 175 yards. Behind him, Nico Marley of the linebacking corps and Parry Nickerson out on the corner, were way too much for the Wake Forest offense to handle and displayed the Green Wave’s talent at every level of the defense.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough in a 7-3 Green Wave loss (damn, that’s an old-timey score). And it is a game they’ll look back on and say, “We should’ve had that one.” But, after two fourth quarter drives into the red zone netted zero points – a blocked 43-yard field goal, and Cuiellette getting stuffed on a 4th and 1 at the 14 yard line – all the Green Wave could do was watch the clock run out on what would’ve been an electrifying upset.
It hurts, but I would take every second of this unfortunate loss over anything I’ve seen over the past two years. This team, like the rest of us, will hit some more potholes in Uptown, but there’s a fire in their belly and a real reason to believe.
The pessimist and optimist always look at the same event but see different things. But, not matter which you are – here’s an undeniable fact. The Tulane Green Wave went into foreign territory as a 17-point underdog and – even with the loss – they punched the bigger kid in the nose first…and almost won the fight.
Your Tulane Green Wave returns to Uptown, and faces the Southern Jaguars, in the team’s first home game at Yulman Stadium this Saturday. Kick off is at 7 p.m. Go support your team, New Orleans.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Great Raft Brewing’s “Make Believer” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Digable Planets – “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”
Around The Way
Remember when everyone used to talk about politics? What in the hell was that all about anyway? It’s like they forgot football season was on the way. And, even though I’m no fan of media-driven hype, this college football opening weekend definitely lived up to the “Greatest ever” billing. And if not the greatest, it was a heck of a time.
Unfortunately for our friends in Baton Rouge, the LSU Tigers were one of the three Top 10 teams who would immediately fall into the “need to regroup” category. But, to be honest, if you’re a Top 10 team, this is the absolute best week to lose. Yet, worse for the LSU fan, is the sickening feeling of having seen this all before. Leonard Fournette did every thing he’s asked to do – 138 yards rushing, 38 yard receiving – but, once again, it came down to Brandon Harris’ arm and, once again, he did not deliver – ending the game in grand fashion with one of the worst passes you’ll see this year. But again, a hot streak and a victory over Alabama (gulp) changes everything for this team.
The other big story this week was the imminent demise of the SEC. The LSU loss was preceded by Tennessee escaping Appalachian State in overtime. After that, the SEC would see – Mississippi State lose to South Alabama; Kentucky lose to Southern Miss after being up 25 points; Arkansas barely beat Louisiana Tech; Missouri, South Carolina, and Vandy all look awful; and somehow, Auburn only lose to No. 2 Clemson by six, yet look dreadful at the same time; and Florida look very so-so versus UMass – a school that has been contemplating a move back to the FCS level. As an encore, Ole Miss would end the long weekend by blowing a 22-point lead and losing to Florida State.
Of course, on the other side, you had Alabama destroy USC, Georgia beat a quality North Carolina program in coach Kirby Smart’s debut and Texas A&M upset UCLA.
So, as always – there might be something to it, or it may just be fans overreacting. Maybe the holy SEC Empire is burning or maybe it’s just playing possum, ready to strike at a later date. Either way, there’s a long way to go, and thank heavens the masses are talking about football again. Otherwise, they would be droning on about you know what.