Tulane, Fritz deserve credit for raising the bar
On our 3 Tailgaters Show on 106.1 FM NASH ICON this past Saturday morning, Tulane was in the midst of not playing well in the first half against Southern Miss.
Justin McMillan was off the mark throwing the football, passing for just 22 yards. Tulane was not running it well enough and the defense was not holding up the way you wanted it to.
A caller lamented the number of penalties against the Green Wave in the 2019 season and how badly the team was playing.
The show runs from 10 a.m.-noon and the game in Fort Worth started at 10:30 a.m., to put timing in perspective.
Tulane trailed 13-0. The Green Wave looked like a team that had overslept, missing its alarm. It looked the part of a team that had not played in five weeks.
Golden Eagles quarterback Jack Abraham left the game with a shoulder injury at the end of the first half. Then, running back De’Michael Harris left with a hamstring injury.
Then came the second half.
Those injuries unquestionably affected the Golden Eagles. Tulane picked off Thad Whatley twice after Abraham departed.
While the injuries were a factor, the biggest factor was that Tulane awakened, adjusted, McMillan became more accurate and a better team from a better conference prevailed in solid fashion.
Southern Miss was geared and determined to stop the vaunted running game of Tulane.
Willie Fritz and Will Hall adjusted and obliged in the second half.
McMillan threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter. He completed 9-of-10 passes for 193 yards and the three touchdowns in the second half. It was a great end to his solid two-year stint as the Tulane starting quarterback.
It was a sweet homecoming for McMillan, who played at Cedar Hill High School, about 35 miles from where the game took place Saturday.
Back to the caller and the initial premise.
Tulane started the 2019 season 5-1 and expectations rose to massive levels. The only loss was a respectable road loss at Auburn.
Then came the tough part of the schedule and some tough losses to tough teams.
The criticism of the program first occurred in whispers, then with regular talk. It got loud following the 37-20 loss at SMU to end the regular season at .500.
In retrospect, Tulane lost to good teams in a good conference. That is the next level that Fritz must grow his program to. Tulane has been able to beat the lesser teams in the league. It will take better players to rise to the top level to beat the better teams.
Keep in mind that lost by three at Navy, by eight points at Temple and by three points at home against UCF. The Green Wave trailed 21-17 in the fourth quarter at SMU.
Tulane is close.
247 Sports ranks Tulane’s 2020 recruiting class third out of the 12 AAC teams, trailing only Cincinnati and East Carolina.
Rivals.com and Scout.com rank Tulane’s 2020 recruiting class fourth, trailing only Cincinnati, East Carolina and UCF.
Tulane has won bowl games for the first time ever. The Green Wave have posted winning seasons in succession for the first time since 1997-98.
With a good recruiting class coming in, the chances of making it three straight in each category are real.
Then, there is the matter of playing Southern Miss regularly.
There was no greater rival for Tulane than Southern Miss. The Battle for the Bell was and is real. Tulane took it home Saturday from Fort Worth.
Hattiesburg is just two hours away.
I was blessed to cover and even call a few of the Tulane vs. Southern Miss games on television.
This was the first meeting between the two teams since 2010.
The Green Wave and Golden Eagles played each other quite a bit, including annually from 1979-2006. Then, the two became charter members of Conference USA but did not play each other in the latter stages of that affiliation, being on different sides of the conference before Tulane departed for the American Athletic Conference in 2014.
Southern Miss has dominated the series with a 23-8 edge. The Golden Eagles had won six straight meetings, nine of the last 10, and 13 of the last 15 and 19 of the last 21 in the series.
Both fan bases would regularly travel to the other’s game site back in the day. Let us hope those days return with normalcy in the future.
As for now, Tulane is set to host Southern Miss in 2022 and will travel to the Golden Eagles in 2023. Tulane will again host USM in 2026 and travel to Hattiesburg in 2027.
It was great to see the two teams play each other again.
It was great to see Tulane win another bowl game.
It was great to see Tulane post another winning season.
It was great to see Fritz remain as head coach. He is a good coach with a good staff which has done a good job.
With winning comes higher expectations. It increases fan interest.
With more attention comes more of a focus on winning.
Fans will get frustrated with losses and understandably so. That comes with the territory.
Fritz should be appreciated. Winning should always be appreciated at Tulane. It has not come easily. He has raised the bar.
Now, the quest is find a starting quarterback, to become more consistent in the passing game, to create more of a pass rush and to improve on the back end of the defense.
Of course, that conversation comes off of a winning season and bowl win, a positive step forward for Tulane football.
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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…