The rebuilding effort taking place in Uptown led by Willie Fritz remained apace as the Green Wave scored, and scored again, an emphatic 62-28 victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane to move Tulane to 3-2 on the season and into bowl contention. Yes, New Orleans, the Tulane Green Wave are in the hunt for a bowl game.
Everyone wants to belong, to feel at home and when called upon to have a shot at victory. The Tulane Green Wave, who have been the doormat of the American Athletic Conference since joining the league in 2014, have been adrift in a league that seemed to be too much for the school. Then, after last year’s hiring of Willie Fritz, the energy around the program changed, but the outcomes did not as the Green Wave still found themselves on the wrong end of game day outcomes.
Then there was Saturday.
Due to Hurricane Nate, the game at Yulman Stadium was moved to a 10 a.m. kickoff. The game effectively was over by 10:45 a.m. How long has it been since you could say another FBS team never had a chance against the Green Wave?
Tulane beat Tulsa (1-5) to every single punch in a game that would see the Green Wave score touchdowns on their first seven drives. Tulsa was lost from the get-go and replaced their quarterback before the end of the first quarter — a quarter that would see Tulane stomping to a 21-0 lead only seven minutes into the game.
As has been the case all season, it all started with senior running back Dontrell Hilliard, who posted his finest game ever with a stellar 175-yard rushing and four-touchdown performance. Hilliard has now gone over 100 yards for the third straight game. Hilliard’s stable mates wouldn’t be left too far behind with Sherman Badie, Darius Bradwell and Jonathan Banks all rushing for at least 60 yards.
Speaking of Jonathan Banks, the junior quarterback continued his impressive season leading the Green Wave renaissance. This kid is all poise and confidence. Banks doesn’t put up crazy numbers in the passing department — Tulane is still a run-first program, after all — but he has been an effective leader. Banks has also been efficient, completing 58 percent of his attempts for four touchdowns against no interceptions. Banks has rushed for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns and once again displayed his explosiveness on a 50-yard scamper on the first play of the game that set the tone on a day when Tulane would rush for 435 yards.
Yes, there are still holes to fill. Tulsa came in missing four starters on defense and the team has only posted one victory on the season. On Tulane’s side, the Green Wave defense gave up too many deep balls as the Golden Hurricane were in comeback mode. Tulane also missed yet another extra point that you have to hope doesn’t haunt the team later in the year. Be that as it may, this day was for celebrating as the only stat that mattered on Saturday was looking up at the scoreboard as the teams headed into the locker rooms with Tulane up 48-7.
It’s hard not to keep going on about offense on a day a team posts 62 points but you have to give the Green Wave defense credit for never letting this game become a shootout by shattering any Tulsa hopes of a comeback in the first half. Rae Juan Marbley, Sean Wilson and Ade Aruna all got sacks and freshman safety Chase Kuerschen recorded his first interception of his young career.
Don’t think this game didn’t raise any eyebrows around the American Athletic Conference (dropping 62 points on anyone will usually do that). What many teams had marked as an easy “W” to start the year has now been changed to a question mark in week five. Remember, before the season started, the media ranked Tulsa in the middle of the AAC pack with Tulane, predictably, dead last. Now, even before the halfway point of the season, those roles have reversed and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tulane favored over East Carolina and Cincinnati at home and SMU on the road. How quickly things can change.
Not that any of this will be easy. Tulane has to avoid a letdown, and collect a crucial victory that will go a long way to bowl eligibility, next week when they travel to Florida International. After that, the schedule gets really real with games against two of the top programs in the AAC — a home night game versus South Florida (which you better show up for) and on the road at Memphis. It could get hairy but keep the faith, Greenies.
Tulane football is just around the corner.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: NOLA Brewing’s “Angry Wave” Kristallweizen
Playlist Recommendation: Ray Charles – “Moon Over Miami”
Around the Way
Southern University Jaguars are starting to put some wins together after beating Alabama A&M 35-14 to move to 3-3 on the year. The Jags need some help, but it is a real possibility that they could win out and have a shot to knock off #19 Grambling State for the SWAC West title. It’s a tall order and there is still a lot of football to be played but, either way, Southern will only go as far as quarterback, and four-year starter, Austin Howard can take them.