NEW ORLEANS — Playing three quarterbacks in three weeks, Tulane’s offensive problems have been well documented.
Its defensive issues were even more apparent on Saturday in the Green Wave’s 63-10 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The defeat extends Tulane’s losing streak to 14, the longest in the FBS.
ULM (2-2) decimated the Green Wave (0-4) on the ground and through the air, finishing with 222 rushing yards and averaging 11.8 yards per pass attempt while racking up 331 yards through the air. In the first half alone, ULM racked up 35 points on 291 yards of offense, converting on its first five third-down situations.
The Warhawks tallied its most points since joining the FBS in 1994 and didn’t punt until the fourth quarter, thanks to a series of explosive plays. Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said the Warhawks had most of its success attacking true freshmen defensive backs Darion Monroe, Lorenzo Doss and Jordan Batiste.
“(Big plays) were a big factor in the game,” Johnson said. “It’s something we hadn’t done in a while. We hadn’t given up very many big plays and just the youth that’s back there.
“I just think they have to keep their eyes and continue to cover. I think that will come with time.”
Meanwhile, Tulane’s offense, was unable to get untracked, earning just 11 first downs despite playing against ULM’s second and third team defense for most of the second half.
In his first career start Baton Rouge native D.J. Ponder threw three interceptions, and completed just 21-of-44 passes for 160 yards and received no help from ground attack. Tulane finished with minus-9 rushing yards, its below-zero rushing total since 2009.
“We are going to go as far as the quarterback goes, and that’s what the offense is about and this team is about,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “Right now, our first two are hurt. D.J. Played as good as he could. We can’t run all of our offense and it just takes a bit of getting used to.”
The Warhawks’ playbook, on the other hand, was wide open.
ULM came out firing, launching over the top of the Green Wave defense on the first two plays. After dropping the first fly pattern, the Warhawks were successful on the next and the 52-yard completion set ULM up inside the Tulane 30 yard line.
Four plays later, quarterback Kolton Browning found Jyrus Edwards in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown, opening the floodgates for the offensive onslaught.
Browning directed a 15-play, 76-yard drive on the Warhawks’ next possession, capped by his 3-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Steed.
The Warhawks’ defense got itself into the scoring act, notching a touchdown late in the first quarter when Ponder’s pass was intercepted by R.J. Young. During the ensuing return, Tulane running back Derrick Strozier stripped Young of the ball, but Warhawks’ linebacker Ray Stovall recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Tulane’s brightest highlight came off the foot of Cairo Santos, who connected on a 54-yard field goal, tying the longest kick in school history and pulling the score to 21-3. Santos’ distance tied Mark Olivari who set the mark against Air Force on Nov. 8, 1975 and was also tied by Ed Murray against Memphis on Oct. 28, 1978.
But the Green Wave didn’t generate any momentum after snapping its five-quarter scoreless streak.
Instead, Browning found simple success by launching over the top of Tulane’s secondary for a pair of touchdowns on consecutive drives. Tulane defensive backs were torched by Je’Ron Hamm on a 29-yard score and Tavarese Maye from 38 yards out, leading ULM into halftime with a 35-3 lead.
“Not many teams can keep up with our tempo, either,” ULM running back DeVontae McNeal said. “You come out and start hitting ’em in the mouth, and before long you can do pretty much what you want
The second half didn’t provide Tulane with much of a reprieve.
Within six minutes, the Warhawks tacked on another pair of touchdowns, this time on the ground.
Edwards completed a 51-yard drive, plowing in from three yards out and Monterrell Washington capped a five-play, 85-yard drive with a one-yard plunge. By then, ULM coach Todd Berry had already pulled his offensive starters.
It didn’t end the scoring though.
ULM’s defense jumped in front of another Ponder pass to generate its second touchdown of the day. Darius Lively’s interception and six-yard return pushed the score to 56-3 midway through the third quarter.
“I’ve had four years to prepare for today, and I am very disappointed with the way I played,” Ponder said. “I left a lot of throws out there that could have been made and a lot of plays that could have been made.”
Tulane was able to snap an eight-quarter touchdown drought, when Ponder connected with Ryan Grant on an 18-yard fade pattern in the corner of the end zone.
However, the Warhwaks capped the day’s scoring when DeVontae McNeal cracked the 60-point barrier, bolting for a 43-yard touchdown.
In its past three games, Tulane has been outscored 147-20 and will have to regroup on the road, traveling to Louisiana-Lafayette next Saturday in search of some change.
“We are going to turn the team around, the freshmen and the whole team,” Tulane freshman cornerback Doss said. “This is a tough loss, but we are getting close. We just have to keep watching film and working hard on the field.”