Growth process for Tulane takes a hit with loss to Southern Miss
Perhaps it is part of a maturation process. Coaches at every level talk about “the process.”
That concept includes taking care of business, at home, as a big favorite.
Fresh off the biggest win of the Willie Fritz era at Kansas State, Tulane lost at home as a two-touchdown favorite over a decent but less-than-stellar team in Southern Miss by a 27-24 margin.
You could almost see it coming.
Tulane had dismantled Southern Miss in its most recent meeting (66-24) in Hattiesburg and also downed the Golden Eagles in the Armed Forces Bowl game (30-13) prior to that, both in 2020. USM came in highly motivated.
Perhaps the Green Wave were still basking in the glow of the plaudits and bouquets thrown their way from the victory in Manhattan.
Though it was not the big stage of the Big Apple version of Manhattan, Tulane was not quite ready for a bigger stage, at home, with an enthused fan base, with significant, positive media attention.
An announced crowd of 20,422 was on hand. While some were USM fans, the Tulane contingent on hand was solid and ready to explode.
Instead, the Green Wave football team imploded. This bite of the apple was rotten.
Tulane led 14-0 and it was a 17-10 advantage at halftime but the Green Wave crumbled under an avalanche of self- inflicted wounds.
The kicking game let the Green Wave down in huge fashion with a missed field goal and a blocked field goal and Tulane punted for a modest 38.5 yard average and had a punt blocked, setting up a USM field goal. Jha’Quan Jackson mishandled a punt as well, though Tulane was fortunate to recover the muff.
The kicking game, frankly, was a disaster. Of course, Tulane punted just twice.
The numbers on the statsheet did not add up. Tulane had 451 total yards to just 253 yards for Southern Miss while the Wave held the ball for 36:01 to just 23:59 for the Golden Eagles.
Tyjae Spears was excellent, rushing 22 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns while catching five passes for 74 yards.
Then there was the pick six that proved fatal in the fourth quarter when Michael Pratt was intercepted by Eric Scott, who returned it 35 yards for a score to make it 27-17 with 7:07 to play in the game.
Pratt, who was sacked four times, complete 19-of-29 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown with the costly interception. He was effective running the ball once again with 16 carries for 81 yards.
Jackson had a 25-yard touchdown catch from Pratt late in the game but the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Golden Eagles to secure the upset.
It was sweet vindication for former Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall to return to New Orleans and beat his mentor.
It is easy to be loose and easy to get motivated when you are an underdog playing a superior program. The expectations are low, perhaps very low, and the underdog is most often sky high to try to something special.
Harder to be loose and easy when as a significant favorite against what is perceived to be an inferior team, your maturity is tested. Expectations are high with the underdog most often sky high and unburdened as they try to do something special.
While Tulane is far from a power program, Southern Miss flipped the script on the Green Wave on Saturday night.
What a difference a week makes. Still, 3-1 is a very good start for Tulane. This can still be a very successful season.
Flushing the loss and centering a laser focus on Houston in required. The Cougars await on a short week with a Friday night conference matchup, and that more advanced program typically handles the Wave when playing in Texas.
While Tulane has beaten the Cougars two of the last three tries in New Orleans, Houston has won the last three meetings and eight of the last nine over Tulane in the Lonestar state. The last win for Tulane at Houston was a 31-24 victory in 2014 when Curtis Johnson was the head coach.
At home as a solid favorite with better overall personnel and with a halftime lead, you have to win the game. That is what a mature team and program does.
The process continues uptown in New Orleans.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…