It’s only Week 3, and Tulane already has reached a must-win game after a dismal 41-39 loss to FBS newbie South Alabama in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The quick turnaround to a Thursday night contest at Louisiana Tech will provide a litmus test as to whether Tulane is mentally tougher than in years past, when the Green Wave usually imploded at the first sign of trouble.
Louisiana Tech struggled to beat FCS opponent Lamar at home on Saturday night, winning 27-14 a week after getting clobbered by North Carolina State, so neither team enters with much confidence.
At least Tulane is in the second year of coach Curtis Johnson’s rebuilding plan. The Bulldogs, in year No. 1 of the Skip Holtz tenure, are nothing like the team that led the NCAA in scoring last season under former coach Sonny Dykes.
Tulane wasn’t ready to play against South Alabama. It’s that simple.
The Jaguars scored touchdowns on four of their first five series before the Wave defense woke up. Still, it was a total team loss.
The defense played well in the second half, and Tulane went ahead 33-31 in the third quarter. From there, the offense lost 35 yards combined in its next four series and committed a turnover, while the Jaguars scored their go-ahead touchdown by recovering a blocked punt in the end zone.
The mistakes negated fine individual performances from quarterback Nick Montana (327 passing yards and three TDs), safety Sam Scofield (career-high 15 tackles) and linebacker Dominique Robertson (career-high 11 tackles and his first career interception).
Wide receiver Ryan Grant played like a future NFL starter. He had a career-high 14 catches (two shy of the school record) for a career-high 187 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a spectacular catch in the back of the end zone that pulled Tulane within two points with 1:19 left.
“We need to get back to work. We need to work on every single little thing that comes to do with football on this team.”
Tulane center Zach Morgan
Keep an eye on
Tulane’s offensive line, inept last year, remains a trouble spot. Montana was sacked three times and knocked to the turf on several other occasions.
The running backs combined for 61 yards on 21 carries (2.9 average), and some of those yards came on nice second effort from Orleans Darkwa. A holding penalty on left tackle Arturo Uzdavinis negated a fourth-quarter run across midfield.
The line has been short-handed the past few weeks, with starting tackle Todd Jacquet missing the opener and starting tackle Sean Donnelly sitting out against South Alabama due to suspensions.
Presumably, the Wave will be at full strength against Louisiana Tech. We’ll see if it makes a difference.
Tulane was 0-5 on the road last season, losing by an average of 21 points, and has lost 11 in a row away from home overall. … The Wave is 7-0 against Louisiana Tech, but Tulane was 2-0 against ULM before losing 63-10 last season and was 21-4 against ULL before losing 41-13 a year ago. … Cairo Santos has made 56 consecutive kicks since missing an extra point against Rutgers in the 2012 season opener. He is 24 for 24 on field goals since the start of last year. … Tulane has forced nine turnovers through two games. Last year the Wave forced two turnovers in the first two games.