Tulane: Frustration becomes motivation

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- Tulane's Ryan Grant runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter with South Alabama's Charles Watson in pursuit during a game Sept. 7 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- Tulane's Ryan Grant runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter with South Alabama's Charles Watson in pursuit during a game Sept. 7 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Tulane defensive tackle Julius Warmsley saw exactly what he expected when he watched the film to check on halftime adjustments during Saturday’s 41-39 defeat to South Alabama.

No changes.

Despite surrendering 31 points and 329 yards in the first half, and locking down the Jaguars offense to just three points and 136 yards in the second, Warmsley said any difference in scheme, philosophy or formation was negligible.

“I watched it again, and there wasn’t an adjustment,” Warmsley said. “We just came out and played (badly), and it was indicative of how we practiced. So we practiced badly and started out badly. And that was the end of that.

“It was almost completely mental. There were a few tweaks here and there, but the real difference was all on us. We didn’t come to play. And by the time we did, it was too late to get it all back, obviously.

“We either have to learn from that or we’ll have the same problem again and lose again. It needs to be corrected.”

The Green Wave (1-1) won’t have to wait long to find out, traveling to Louisiana Tech for Thursday’s 6:35 p.m. Conference USA opener at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston (TV: Fox Sports 1).

It marks the start of a three-game road swing that includes a trip to Syracuse before returning to north Louisiana to face Louisiana-Monroe.

“The next few games are going to determine our character,” senior receiver Ryan Grant said.

“It’s going to show what kind of team we are and whether last week was who we are or if we learned from it.”

Tulane coach Curtis Johnson is hoping the byproduct of last week’s lesson in unpreparedness is desperation. It’s a trait he’s been trying to impart on the Green Wave throughout the young season.

Before the loss, Johnson repeatedly spoke about being properly motivated and tried to stress Tulane’s inability to overcome overlooking an opponent. Considering the Green Wave lost 20 of its past 23 games, Johnson had ample evidence at his disposal.

Still, the message didn’t land. This week, he expects it will.

“We’re still mad about that loss last week, and you could see it on people’s faces starting on Sunday,” Grant said. “At this point, we are really desperate to get a win, because of what happened this week.”

While Tulane fans and critics pointed to Johnson and his staff for the Green Wave’s first-half failure, a variety of players insisted the blame lay at their own feet.

“I think the tempo surprised us more than anything,” senior cornerback Jordan Sullen said. “Who would have thought South Alabama would get it going as quickly as they did, and they were just going on all cylinders against us? They exposed a few weaknesses and caught us sleeping. By the time we gathered ourselves and came back, we ended up at least two points short of where we needed to be.

“The coaches warned us all about it last week, but we didn’t listen. Now we are being put in the position of being the desperate team instead of just acting like a desperate team.”

But it will take more than attitude for Tulane to fly home with its first road victory since Sept. 17, 2011.

Louisiana Tech (1-1) features a powerful rushing attack, running for 416 yards in its first two games. Much of Tulane’s attention will be focused on the health of starter Kenneth Dixon who injured his knee in last week’s 27-14 win over Lamar. Dixon scored 28 touchdowns last season, equal to the Green entire Wave’s season output.

Still, Tulane’s seniors claim success Thursday night in Ruston is beyond a depth chart or statistics, saying it will come down to which team is the most desperate.

“We know they’re a good team, and we know a lot about them, but we really feel it’s up to us,” Warmsley said. “We need to show up from the first second of the game and play like a team that needs to win and needs to win badly. We need to react to what happened last week and use it to our advantage.”