Nick Montana’s Tulane debut was not exactly the stuff of legend.
The Green Wave will take it, though, with the expectation of more production against South Alabama on Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Montana started slowly and finished 6 of 14 for 144 yards as Tulane beat Jackson State 34-7 last Thursday with a ground-bound approach, running on 43 of 59 plays. Given few chances to air the ball out, he looked hesitant early before tossing a pair of touchdowns.
“It was a solid performance for his first start,” quarterbacks coach Mike Neu said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, but he did a good job of not turning the ball over, did a good job executing the running game and getting us into the right looks.”
Clearly, the largest factor in that low total was the conservative game plan. Coach Curtis Johnson said he wanted to set a tone for the season a year after Tulane averaged less than 40 rushing yards.
Johnson made that priority No. 1 in practice this week.
“I really liked how he took command in the huddle,” Johnson said. “He got us into the right checks. He can ad-lib. He makes our offensive line look better already. He picked up the blitz real well. He’s doing some good things, and he’ll get better and better each week.”
He also avoided any killer mistakes, which South Alabama could not say after losing 22-21 at home to Southern Utah last Thursday. The Jaguars were ahead by eight midway through the fourth quarter when Brandon Bridge, their second quarterback, threw an interception at the South Alabama 43.
Southern Utah capitalized with a touchdown, missed a tying two-point conversion, forced a three-and-out and kicked the winning field goal on the final play.
South Alabama’s Ross Metheny, who played primarily in the first and third quarters against Southern Utah, threw for two touchdowns. Bridge, playing in the second and fourth quarters, ran for a 40-yard score.
The tandem’s success went for naught when Bridge made one bad decision. South Alabama will enter the Superdome on a seven-game losing streak dating to last season, its first as an FBS member.
Former Tulane safety Devon Walker, who was paralyzed after suffering a cervical spine fracture against Tulsa last season, will be featured on ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday. The show runs from 9 a.m. to noon.
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