Merry Christmas, football fans, it’s the most beautiful time of year. Football is officially back. Let’s wash the preseason off of us and hunker down in front of the TV because there are men tackling each other with ill intentions.
From the unexpected to the never in doubt, we packed a lot of football in this weekend. Here are some of the noteworthy highlights (and low lights).
Tulane Squanders Game
I was going to say choked but since Tulane entered as the underdog I guess, in Vegas, a Wake Forest win was to be expected. But sometimes reality and the odds just don’t mesh. Fun fact regarding the odds in Vegas: Mississippi Casinos all along the Gulf Coast are promoting via the endless billboards along I-10 that their Sportsbooks are now open or opening soon. So, now you can really put your money where your mouth is regarding your favorite team.
Every fan at Yulman Stadium, in their greenest of hearts, knew that the Green Wave would win. Yet, it would turn out to be a very frustrating game to watch as the Green Wave crashed 23-17 in overtime. The offense came out flat in the first half and their calling card, the running game, was nowhere to be found all night. Jonathan Banks did eventually get rolling and would connect with Terren Encalade on two bombs (52 yards, 74 yards) for touchdowns but there seemed to be no “in between” passing game. There were just no pass plays to hit the tight ends dragging across the middle or running backs out in the flats. That would prove fatal in overtime as on Tulane’s first play in overtime they took a 15-yard penalty that they would not be able to overcome.
It was just a weird night. Too many run calls on third down and forever and a feast or famine passing game sent Uptowners home shaking their heads. It truly felt like the team hadn’t progressed since last year but, hey, this is just one game. Hopefully one that won’t haunt.
If you want to see two programs on the rise with a lot of local talent don’t miss Tulane versus Nicholls State this weekend at Yulman Stadium. The Colonels, building off of last year’s playoff berth, knocked off the Kansas Jayhawks and will have no fear about playing the Green Wave. It could be a great game.
Surprise in Texas
We were visiting Gulf Shores this weekend having a blast with friends on the beach. Even when the rains ran us back to the condo it was no bummer at all because —college football.
The colors and the pageantry and all of the hard hitting were a delight to behold. Our friends from Baton Rouge, who were filling up the FloraBama by 2 p.m., have to be ecstatic about the Tigers laying a merciless 33-17 beat down on the Miami Hurricanes. The defense was all over Miami quarterback Malik Rosier and throttled the Hurricane offense to such a degree that the Miami faithful is already calling for a change at the position.
Baton Rouge’s Nick Brossette tore up the Miami defense for 125 yards and two touchdowns, including one that went 50 yards. You have to feel great for the senior who has spent his years at LSU waiting behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. At quarterback, for now it appears Joe Burrow is more “game manager” than weapon but a win is a win. Much needed, in this case.
Saints Make Final Cuts
It’s not all college football of course. The NFL season kicks of Thursday with Atlanta playing Philadelphia but the real season starts this Sunday when the New Orleans Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at noon at the Super Dome. Melanie already acquired her first 2018-2019 game day shirt. You know it’s real when those Fleurty Girl shirts come out.
To get to that point, the Saints had to make the tough last cuts that every team makes to get their active roster to 53. As with all such endeavors, there were some surprises along the way.
It’s great to see Zachary High School and Louisiana Tech’s Boston Scott make the team at running back/kick returner. The Saints cut some veterans running back help to keep Scott on the team. Scott’s solid camp also led the team to cut kick return specialist Brandon Tate.
On the flip side, three of the Saints’ draft picks from 2018 were jettisoned. Hopefully this is a sign pointing to the level at which the team is playing. Either way, while lowest round picks not making the team doesn’t come as a real surprise, it always gives me pause when a fourth rounder like offensive tackle Rick Leonard becomes a “miss.” Natrell Jamerson and Kamrin Moore, both defensive backs, just had the misfortune of being drafted into what could be the best defensive backfield in the league. It’s hard to crack a team that starts Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley, Marcus Williams and even Vonn Bell. On top of that, the Saints added veteran Patrick Robinson over the off-season. So, these cuts come as no surprise.
They’re playing real football this Sunday, Who Dat Nation! Even if I can’t find a real tailgate (seriously: Anyone? Just one tailgate under a bridge or in a parking lot guys. Come on!) it’s going to be a great day to be alive in the city of New Orleans.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: NOLA Brewing’s “Hopback Cadillac” Imperial IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Louis Armstrong Jr. – “When the Saints Go Marching In”