MONROE — The last time Tulane played ULM at Malone Stadium, the circumstances were dramatically different.
Tulane won 52-9 on Oct. 5, 2002, in front of 11,645 fans to improve to 3-3 in what would turn out to be an 8-5 year. The Green Wave ended the season with a win over Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. ULM finished that 2002 season 3-9, the ninth of 13 consecutive losing seasons after joining Division I-A.
The Wave has not been back to the postseason since, finishing below .500 for 10 consecutive years. ULM is coming off the first bowl appearance in school history after going 8-5 last season. Along the way, the Warhawks crushed Tulane 61-0 in the Superdome for their first win in three series meetings.
The point spread reflected that change. ULM opened as a 10½ point favorite, and the line moved to 14 later this week.
The first three quarters might have signaled another sea change. Tulane led 10-0 at the break and 31-7 at the end of the third quarter as improved to 3-2 for the first time since 2003. ULM, which lost 70-7 to Baylor last week after giving up 10 touchdowns in less than two-and-a-half quarters, fell to 2-3.
Fast start for defense
Since shutting out the SWAC’s Jackson State for the first three quarters in a season-opening 34-7 win, Tulane’s defense had held an opponent scoreless for only one of the next 12 quarters. That zero came in the third quarter of the Wave’s 24-15 win over Louisiana Tech in Ruston.
That number changed significantly against ULM. The Green Wave blanked the Warhawks in the first half, allowing only 145 yards and six first downs while sacking quarterback Kolton Browning twice.
Aside from setting the ULM career passing record with a 44-yard completion on a jump ball, Browning struggled mightily. He went 11 for 25 in the first half and was nowhere close on several of his throws before leaving with an injury in the third quarter.
The whole year has been a struggle for Browning, who threw for 3,049 yards and 29 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 2010 while completing 63.8 percent of his passes. He entered the game having completed 53.8 percent of his passes in 2013 with seven touchdowns and six interceptions.
Spreading it around
Running back was supposed to be Tulane’s deepest position entering the season, and the Green Wave used all of that depth in the first half of Saturday’s game.
Five players carried on five consecutive plays during the opening drive, with Orleans Darkwa, Rob Kelley, quarterback Nick Montana, Lazedrick Thompson and Josh Rounds touching the ball as the Wave moved from their own 33 to the ULM 39.
Tulane had 111 rushing yards by halftime. Last year, the Wave averaged 39.6 yards per game on the ground and was held to minus-9 yards rushing on 21 carries against ULM.
This and that
Tulane linebacker Dominique Robertson’s 33-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter was his second career score. He had an 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown against SMU in 2010. … Tulane sophomore free safety Darion Monroe had his first career sack in the first half. …Tulane strong safety Sam Scofield, who left the Syracuse game last Saturday with a concussion in the first half, had tackles on two of the first three plays against ULM.
... Tulane’s last game at Malone Stadium was a 38-14 loss to Tulsa on Nov. 19, 2005 when the Wave was forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.