Game Notes: Tulane unexpectedly opens 2021 season versus No. 2 Oklahoma on road
HURRICANE IDA MOVES TULANE’S SEASON OPENER TO NORMAN
• The Green Wave head to Norman, Oklahoma to open their 128th season of football against No. 2/3 Oklahoma. The game will be aired live on ABC and will kickoff at 11 a.m.
• The game was originally set to be played in New Orleans, but due to the devastating effects from Hurricane Ida, the decision was made on Monday to move the game to Oklahoma.
• Tulane’s trip to Oklahoma will mark the second straight season Tulane will open the year on the road. In 2020, Tulane opened its season on the road at South Alabama.
• The Green Wave will take on Oklahoma for the second time in program history. The first meeting between the two teams came on Sept. 16, 2017. In that contest, Tulane faced an Oklahoma team that was ranked No. 2/3.
• Tulane opens the 2021 season in the hopes of building off of its third straight bowl appearance as it took part in the 2020 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
• The Green Wave have never played in four straight bowl games in program history.
FIRST AND 10
1. The Green Wave own a 66-58-2 all-time record in season openers and are 6-4 in their last 10 season-openers.
2. Tulane had eight players named to the American Athletic Conference all-league team last season. The eight players named all-conference are the program’s most since 1997.
3. Tulane was one of just 15 FBS teams to play 12 or more games in 2020 (no games were canceled and team activities were never paused during the season).
4. Last season Michael Pratt became just the seventh true freshman to start at quarterback since 1975. Pratt became the first true freshman to earn a win as a starter since 1985 (Terrence Jones in 1985 was the last). His 20 touchdown passes are the most by a true freshman in program history.
5. Tulane finished the year by scoring 30-or-more points in eight of its last 10 games, including a 66-point outburst back on Sept. 26, 2020 against Southern Miss. Tulane had not scored 30-or-more points in seven games in the same season since the team’s perfect 12-0 season in1998.
6.The Green Wave finished the 2020 campaign ranked first in the American Athletic Conference as a team with 36.0 sacks on the year.
7. The Green Wave have also surpassed 200 yards rushing in 15 of their last 25 games dating back to the start of the 2019 season. Tulane led the American in rushing yards per game last year, averaging 217.1 per game.
9. Tulane has rushed for over 100 yards as a team in 64 of its last 65 games. Tulane had its 56-game streak of rushing for at least 100 yards as a team snapped at Houston back on Oct. 8, 2020.
10. The Green Wave picked up its first win over a Top 25 team in over 30 years, as it defeated Army (No. 25) inside Yulman Stadium on Nov. 14, 2020. Tulane has not defeated a Top 10 opponent since 1973 when the Green Wave shutout LSU in 1973 (14-0).
• The No. 2/3-ranked Sooners enter the 2021 season under the direction of fifth-year head coach Lincoln Riley.
• Riley, who turns 38 on Sunday, was the youngest FBS head coach at the time of his hiring in 2017. He is currently the seventh-youngest today.
• The 2021 campaign marks the 22nd straight season the Sooners have been ranked in the preseason AP poll. They have been ranked 10th or better in 19 of the last 21 preseason polls.
• Oklahoma finished the 2020 campaign with a 55-20 win over Florida in the 2020 Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
• Prior to its victory over Florida, Oklahoma defeated Iowa State 27-21 in the conference championship game for its sixth straight league title.
• Oklahoma returns 17 players who started at least five of the team’s 11 games last year.
• In 2020, the Sooner offense ranked sixth nationally in scoring (43.0 points per game), while their defense ranked 29th nationally.
THE LAST MEETING WITH OKLAHOMA
• Tulane football jumped out to a 14-7 lead at No. 2/3 Oklahoma, but the Sooners were too much in the end, as the Green Wave fell, 56-14.
• Playing against an opponent ranked as high as No. 2 for the first time since 2007, Tulane (1-2) started fast, forcing a turnover on Oklahoma’s opening drive, and converted it into a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Dontrell Hilliard.
• The game was tied, 14-14, after the first period, before the Sooners scored twice in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead into the half. In the first half, the Wave totaled 224 yards of offense, including 184 on the ground, while OU had 313 yards, including 250 passing yards.
• Tulane managed just 67 yards in the second half, however, as Oklahoma outgained the Green Wave, 631-291 for the game.
A LOOK AHEAD AT THE 2021 SCHEDULE
• The Tulane University football team begins its 2021 season on Sept. 4 at home against the University of Oklahoma inside Yulman Stadium. The game will be aired live on ABC.
• The Green Wave’s home schedule inside Yulman Stadium includes non-conference matchups against Oklahoma (Sept. 4), Morgan State (Sept. 11) and UAB (Sept. 25). Tulane also will welcome league opponents Houston (Oct. 7), Cincinnati (Oct. 30), Tulsa (Nov. 13) and USF (Nov. 20). The seven home games this season are the most at Yulman Stadium since the venue opened in 2014.
TULANE FOOTBALL ESTABLISHES – WAVE OF CHANGE
• Prior to the start of the 2020 season, the Tulane University football program established a player focused group called Wave of Change.
• The group vows to engage the collective public by committing to bring awareness to injustices and inequalities facing society.
TULANE ATHLETIC ESTABLISHES – WAVE BRAND WORKS
• In the spring of 2020, Tulane University Athletics partnered with the Tulane Center for Sport on new name, image, and likeness initiatives to enhance student-athletes’ education and personal brand.
• The partnership between the Center for Sport and Tulane Athletics will provide Green Wave student-athletes with a comprehensive educational program to help equip each individual with the knowledge and expertise to maximize their NIL opportunities in a way that is compliant with NCAA legislation, as well as with federal and state laws.
‘WELCOME TO UPTOWN
• Following Tulane’s final regular season game of the year against Memphis in 2020, the Green Wave welcomed three new coaches to their staff for the start of bowl season.
• Chip Long was named offensive coordinator and replaced Will Hall, who was named the head coach at the University of Southern Miss. Long arrives at Tulane following a year as an offensive analyst at the University of Tennessee. Prior to his time at Tennessee he spent three years at the University of Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish offensive coordinator.
• The Green Wave welcomed back Chris Hampton, as the team’s new defensive coordinator. Hampton spent the 2020 regular season at Duke University.
• Tulane also welcomed Chris Watt, as the team’s new offensive line coach. Watt spent 2020 at Notre Dame.
• Tulane football closed 2020 with eight All-AAC selections. The eight AAC selections are the most the Green Wave have had since joining The American.
• The Green Wave’s eight all-league players were the most Tulane has had selected for an all-conference team since 1997.
• Five of those All-AAC players return for the 2021 campaign. Junior punter Ryan Wright earned First Team All-AAC recognition.
• Senior offensive lineman Corey Dublin, sophomore offensive linemen Sincere Haynesworth and sophomore linebacker Dorian Williams all were named Second Team All-AAC.
• Dublin’s second team honor marked the second time he was honored by the American Athletic Conference.
• Rounding out the list of all-conference honorees was junior offensive lineman Joey Claybrook, as he was named Honorable Mention.
35 EQUALS WINS
• Under Coach Fritz, the Green Wave have scored over 35 points in 21 games. Tulane is 20-2 in those games.
• The Olive and Blue scored exactly 38 points in last three of their last six games, all of which were wins. Tulane scored 35+ in three straight games against FBS opponents for only the second time in Fritz’s tenure. The Green Wave achieved the feat last season in wins over Houston, Army and UConn in 2019.
• The Green Wave finished the 2020 campaign first in the American Athletic Conference as a team with 36.0 sacks.
• The Green Wave also ranked third in the league and 31st nationally in interceptions, finishing with 12.
• Tulane ranked third in The American and 26th nationally in passes defended with 63.
ANOTHER STRONG RECRUITING CLASS
• During the signing period, Tulane secured another impressive recruiting class, as it landed 18 players all of whom earned three-star ratings from various recruiting sites.
• The Green Wave’s 2020 class ranked ninth in terms of freshman production according to Pro Football Focus.
• The Green Wave’s 2021 signing class ranked among the nation’s Top 75 according to ESPN.com.
THE IRON MEN
• Tulane enters its final game of the season with seven players who have started in every game this year.
• OL Sincere Haynesworth, TE Tyrick James, DL Jeffery Johnson, CB Jaylon Monroe started in every game during the 2020 campaign.
DORIAN WILLIAMS LEADS THE WAY
• Sophomore Dorian Williams stepped up on the defensive side of the ball for the Green Wave. He has finished first or second on the team in tackles on nine occasions last season.
• Williams led the Green Wave with 98 total tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss.
RUNNING DEEP AT RUNNING BACK
• The Tulane running back room will be one of the deepest in the country as it returns redshirt freshman Tyjae Spears and redshirt sophomores Cam Carroll and Ygenio Booker. The returning running backs combined for 1,056 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2020.
• The Green Wave will return nearly half of their rushing yards from running backs (47.5 percent) during the 2020 season.
• Located in the iconic city of New Orleans, the Tulane football team has made a habit of keeping its local players at home. The 2021 roster features 10 student-athletes who hail from New Orleans.
• Defensive lineman Angelo Anderson (John Curtis), wide receiver Luke Besh (Jesuit), offensive lineman Corey Dublin (Jesuit), quarterback Justin Ibieta (Country Day School), offensive lineman Cameron Jackel (Archbishop Shaw), offensive lineman Colby Orgeron (John Curtis), tight end Connor Prouet (Jesuit), offensive lineman Josh Remetich (Holy Cross), defensive back Lance Robinson (De La Salle), wide receiver Cyron Sutton (Lake Area New Tech) and Rodrek Williams II (De La Salle) all played high school football in New Orleans.
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Listed below is the complete transcript from Green Wave head coach Willie Fritz’s weekly press conference leading up to Tulane’s matchup vs. Oklahoma on Saturday.
“We just got back from the University of Alabama and we practiced indoors there since it’s raining pretty hard here in Birmingham. We really appreciate the people here in the city of Birmingham and they are treating us unbelievably well. We appreciate Alabama football for allowing us to come over and use their facility, we made one phone call and boom they had it all set up. We’re also practicing at Legion Field right now but because of the rain it is going to be difficult to get a practice in. We’re just working on our preparation for the (Oklahoma) Sooners.”
What have the last five days or so has been like from your perspective? Going to Birmingham and the uncertainty of what was going to happen in New Orleans and what’s happened over the last 48 hours back home?
“We decided to leave on Saturday evening which obviously was a great call by our people on campus. We drove over here to Birmingham and weren’t sure what to expect, we got enough clothes for a few days and told the guys to pack up enough through Tuesday. Obviously, that was wishful thinking, we’re going to be over here quite a bit longer than that. It’s a very unfortunate situation, we feel for the people in New Orleans. We’ve all got family, friends, fellow students, student athletes that are there and we have a lot of people that lost their homes. We got guys on our team that weren’t able to hear from their people back home for a few days since cell service wasn’t functioning in New Orleans. It sounds like everyone is doing ok as far as our team and their families are concerned.”
Was there any thought to not play in this game?
“We weren’t quite sure what was going to happen. We were hoping we would be back in New Orleans in a couple of days and that didn’t occur. I think our athletic director worked with the athletic director in Oklahoma and they came up with going ahead and moving the game to Norman.”
On Mykel Jones’ leadership impact on the team and the discussion with him to end his career…
“That was difficult. Mykel is a fine young man and really wanted to play. Unfortunately, he got injured at the very end of last year in our final regular season ball game. He worked his tail off to try to come back and wasn’t able to. He’s going to be very successful. He’s an excellent student, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and I look forward to watching all of his success over the next few years.”
On how Mykel Jones’ time in Oklahoma shaped him…
“I think Mike enjoyed his time at Oklahoma and he was excited about the opportunity to come back home and play for the Green Wave. I only hear great things from Mike about his time in Norman Oklahoma. He’s a very mature young man and it’s just unfortunate, but he’ll bounce back. He’s going to work a little bit in our athletic department and he’s looking to become an agent. We’ve hooked him up with some people and a few internships and I know he will do well.
On preparing for Oklahoma this week and his on quarterback Spencer Rattler…
“They’re ranked No. 2 in the country for a reason. They’ve got great players across the board, offense, defense, the kicking game. They’ve got an interesting kicking game it looks like they’re playing a lot of starters, sometimes teams don’t do that. They’ve really improved defensively over the last few years and they have an extremely potent offense. I don’t know if their offensive line gets enough credit for the tremendous protection they give their quarterback. They’ve got a lot of long developing routes in their arsenal and the reason they’re able to do that is because of the fantastic protection that the offensive line gives.
What kind of a platform does this game give your football program?
“It’s national TV, people are going to be watching football and a majority of them are going to be watching the Green Wave play the sooners. It’s a great opportunity for our program without question, the guys are competitors, and they want to play against the very best and Oklahoma has proven that they are (the best) throughout the years.
Hospitality in Birmingham, where you would play UAB?
“Number one, everybody has been awesome in the city of Birmingham. As I said before, the hotel is great, the downtown area here is fabulous they’ve put a lot of money into it. Our guys have been going down there and eating at different places and I hear them coming back saying this place was excellent or that place was excellent, so we appreciate everyone in the city of Birmingham has done for us. We’ve got a couple more home games; we play a week from Saturday against Morgan State and the following week we go up and play at Ole Miss and then our last game in September is going to be against UAB. I’m not sure what these people making the decisions with the power are deciding or what they are going to decide. We’re like the Terminator you’ve got to just point us in the right direction, and we will go there. I think we’ll find out as the damage is being accessed on campus and in the city of New Orleans when we will go back. Right know we went in and picked up some extra equipment. Our staff was lucky enough to get on campus and get some stuff. We didn’t have our uniforms or our cleats. There are a lot of things we don’t have and hopefully we will be able to get that all back here. I think we will find out here in the next couple of days what our plan will be for the next couple of ball games. Legion field has just been awesome to us in opening their stadium, locker room and everything else. If we need to we will go over there and play, it’s a historic stadium they’ve played some big time games there so if we need to we will play over there.”
How does this Oklahoma team compare to when you last played them?
“There are a lot of similarities – the sets and formations – defensively they are totally different but there are some things that are similar with the offense. Coach (Lincoln) Riley is calling it all now so there are a lot of similarities, but each year everybody evolves a little bit and they add things to their offense, their defense and their kicking game. This is the 2021 Sooners we will be playing, so there’s not a whole lot to take from playing them back a few years ago.”
On whether some players that were there a few years ago, can account for what it was like to play in that stadium or is that a little overrated…
“It’s a little overrated. That’s one of those things you’ve got to do as a football player, or a coach is go out there and block everything out externally and concentrate on what’s going on the field in those 120 yards and just play the very best you can. Coaching the players is tough when they are worried about all the other stuff off going on.”
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