It’s that glorious time of year again. The air feels a bit cooler (everywhere except New Orleans) and the colors of the leaves begin to change (not New Orleans) and go cups are just a bit nicer to have in your hands (definitely New Orleans) as you walk to the football game. College football is back, baby.
Saturday rolled into view with its first big weekend of games and I made no plans except to chill in front of my TV. I had a couple of cold beers in the fridge and my phone would only be used for sports-related texts to friends. It was a beautiful time in all of our lives. What made it even nicer was that the Tulane Green Wave had already wrapped up their first win of season on Thursday night by lambasting, yes lambasting the Florida International University Panthers 42-14 at Yulman Stadium.
Green Wave Rolls
First, a little note about the opponent FIU, as a lot of folks were thrown off by the name and didn’t realize that this is a solid team. FIU won nine games last year including a victory in the Bahamas Bowl. This team returns 17 starters. FIU is picked to the win their division in the Sun Belt. Vegas only had Tulane as a three-point favorite at home. This was a quality club.
Which makes it even nicer that they never had a chance versus Tulane. It was an old fashioned butt whippin’ in Uptown. Tulane settled in about three minutes into the game and showed off by running around and through the Panthers on both sides of the ball. Tulane rolled out its latest stable of running backs and chewed up the FIU defense for 350 yards rushing. Darius Bradwell led the attack with 90 yards rushing and was joined by Corey Dauphine, who immediately got back to his big plays ways with touchdown runs of 14 and 50 yards. Stephon Huderson added 47 yards rushing and redshirt freshman Cameron Carroll added 46 yards on the ground. Whoever was toting the rock had plenty of green in front of him as the team averaged a gaudy seven yards per rush on the night.
As The QB Goes
Actually the night’s third leading rusher was quarterback Justin McMillan with 68 yards rushing and a 17 yard touchdown run that essentially put the game away at the end of the first half.
To say McMillan was impressive on Thursday night would be a massive understatement. McMillan was in total control going 14-for-18 with 199 yards passing and two touchdown tosses.
Last year, McMillan took over the starting role midway through last season (going 5-1) but seemed to be another version of previous starter Jonathan Banks. McMillan played ably within that offensive game plan but definitely didn’t shake up the regime and it seemed to be just more of the same. Not Thursday night.
McMillan, and new offensive coordinator Will Hall, looked sharp in every aspect of the game. The short passing attack paid big dividends all night long as the Panther defense couldn’t stay in front of Darnell Mooney (4 receptions, 84 yards, 1 TD) and Amare Jones (3 receptions, 38 yards). Then, when the Panthers were pinching up to play the receivers tight at the line McMillan went over their heads with touchdown passes to Mooney and sophomore tight end Tyrick James (4 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD). In short, this looks to be a deadlier offense than last year’s attack.
You can’t talk about a 42-14 blowout without mentioning the defensive side of the ball. If it was a shootout sure but this was a total domination on both sides of the pigskin.
Thakarius Keyes provided some much-needed senior leadership in the defensive backfield with an early game altering interception on a deep pass by FIU’s James Morgan. If the Panthers connected on that pass it could have been a very different reality in the first half.
Morgan, who has a ton of accolades and is on several preseason watch lists, was tormented by the Green Wave defense. Patrick Johnson, Tulane’s star defensive end, picked up right where he left off last year by getting one of the three Green Wave sacks on the night. The defense would lay four more quarterback hits on Morgan and he would end the night with negative rushing yards on five attempts. When Morgan escaped the swarming rush the defensive backs were waiting for him recording six break ups. I assure you this kid could not wait to get out of New Orleans.
Hot Dogs and Beer!
You can’t accuse Tulane of not trying their best to get folks out to watch the Green Wave at Yulman Stadium. The Green Wave band and cheerleaders performed for tailgaters and marched to the stadium. The beer was flowing as the school now offers $3 drafts on select beers. On this night it was Yuengling products. And if you’re at a stadium drinking some suds you know you have to have a dog. Yulman was selling hot dogs for two bucks a pop ($3 if you wanted chili on top) and it was awesome. Along with cheap tickets for families the Tulane game day experience is a wonderful bargain for Green Wave families. You should come on out.
Next week, Tulane plays the role of heavy underdog as they will travel to the plains to take on the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night, Sept. 9, at 6:30 p.m. Yes, Tulane will be the underdog but I assure you they will be a confident one. Roll Wave.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Yuengling’s $3 Golden Pilsner at Yulman Stadium
Playlist Recommendation: Earth, Wind and Fire – “September”
Around the Way
I paid an arm and a leg to get week one tickets to watch the Saints host the Texans on Monday night football and I could not be happier. The dynamic of the Texans team has definitely changed the past few days after the team has traded away a boatload of draft picks for Laremy Tunsil, former Saint Kenny Stills and Carlos Hyde. Who cares? Saints by a 100. Who Dat!