Tulane Game Notes: Green Wave welcomes Houston for Thursday primetime matchup

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Jha'Quan Jackson
(Photo: Parker Waters)

GREEN WAVE FOOTBALL SET FOR MIDWEEK MATCHUP WITH HOUSTON
• The Green Wave return home to Yulman Stadium for a midweek matchup with the University of Houston on Thursday.
• The game will serve as Tulane’s American Athletic Conference home opener and will air on ESPN at 6:30 p.m. CT.
• Tulane’s meeting with Houston will mark the fourth straight year the Green Wave have faced the Cougars on ESPN’s Thursday night television platform. Prior to the 2018 season, Tulane has never appeared on ESPN’s Thursday night showcase.
• Tulane will be in search of its third straight home win over Houston. The Green Wave have never defeated the Cougars in three straight home games.
• The Green Wave will faceoff against the Cougars for the 26th time in program history. The Cougars own a 18-7 all-time series lead.
• Last year the Green Wave traveled to Houston and lost a 49-31 shootout in the Cougars’ first game of the season.
• Tulane will look to bounce back from its 52-29 loss at ECU this past Saturday.

FIRST AND 10
1. Houston has not won an away game against Tulane since 2015.
2. Tulane comes into its matchup with Houston featuring the nation’s 25th-best scoring offense, averaging 36.2 points per game. Tulane’s offensive unit also ranks sixth in the American Athletic Conference.
3. The Green Wave defensive unit has made a name for themselves this season, ranking fifth in the American Athletic Conference in turnovers gained.
4. Tulane’s defense also ranks second in the AAC in tackles for loss (17th nationally), averaging 7.4 TFL’s per game.
5. Tight end Tyrick James has established himself as one of the top tight ends in the country in the early portion of the 2021 season. His 289 yards receiving rank sixth in the nation among tight ends.
6. Last week against ECU, freshman quarterback Michael Pratt accounted for three touchdowns against the Pirates. Pratt has thrown for a touchdown pass in every college game he has played in since making his debut in 2020 (15 straight games). He currently has 31 career touchdown passes and has cracked into the program’s all-time Top 10 in career touchdown passes (he is currently ranked ninth all-time).
7. The Green Wave have surpassed 200 yards rushing in 16 of their last 30 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. Last week against ECU, Tulane rushed for 124 yards on the ground.
8. Tulane has rushed for over 100 yards or more as a team in 68 of its last 70 games. Two weeks ago against UAB, Tulane was held to under 100 yards rushing for the second time dating back to the 2015 season. Tulane had its 56-game streak of rushing for at least 100 yards as a team snapped at Houston back on Oct. 8, 2020.
9. Tulane’s special teams rank seventh in the nation in net punting (44.5 yards per game). The Green Wave rank 24th nationally in punt return defense, holding teams to 3.0 yards per return.
10. 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).

SCOUTING HOUSTON
• Houston blew out Tulsa last week 45-10 to improve to 4-1 and 2-0 in conference on the year.
• Houston is currently at the top of the American Athletic Conference.
• The win against Tulsa extended Houston’s win streak to four games with their only loss coming in their first game of the year to Texas Tech. The victory also marked the third time Houston has scored 44 or more points while holding their opponents to ten or less.
• Houston has the top defense in the AAC so far, allowing only 13.8 points per game. They also allow the lowest passing yards per game, 144.4, and rushing yards per game, 111.4, in the conference.
• The Cougars have forced nine turnovers so far this season, six interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
• Running back Alton McCaskill has been effective on the ground so far this season, finding the end zone seven times in five games and averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
• Quarterback Clayton Tune is in his fourth year at Houston. Tune has thrown for over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in his career as a Cougar.
• Head coach Dana Holgorsen is 11-14 in his career at Houston. Before Houston, Holgorsen was the head coach at West Virginia where he went 61-41 over his eight years.

LAST TIME OUT: TULANE FALLS AT ECU
• Tulane’s matchup with ECU marked the 18th all-time meeting between the two teams. ECU holds the all-time series lead 12-6.
• The Green Wave’s setback to ECU snapped Tulane’s three game winning streak over the Pirates.
• Tulane dropped its American Athletic Conference opener for the second straight year.
• The Green Wave found themselves in a 24-point hole in the second quarter, but responded with three touchdowns to cut ECU’s lead to one score with 3:39 to go in the third quarter.
• ECU responded with touchdown drives on its next two offensive possessions.
• As a team, Tulane was outgained 612-404. The Green Wave also had four turnovers which ECU turned into 14 points.
• Nick Anderson, Sincere Haynesworth, Kevin Henry and Michael Pratt served as the team captains.
• Tulane linebacker Dorian Williams carried the Wave of Change flag and Green Wave defensive lineman Jeffery Johnson carried the No. 18 flag in honor of former Tulane student-athlete Devon Walker.
• With the loss, Tulane head coach Willie Fritz moved to 223-111-1 all-time.
• Offensive starters for the Green Wave were QB Michael Pratt, RB Cameron Carroll, WR Jaetavian Toles, WR Duece Watts, TE Tyrick James, TE Will Wallace, OL Sincere Haynesworth, OL Caleb Thomas, OL Corey Dublin, OL Rashad Green, OL Joey Claybrook.
• Dublin’s start was the 54th of his career. Dublin has the most starts of any player on the team.
• Pratt passed for 268 yards through the air. He also accounted for three touchdowns one passing and two rushing.
• With his passing score in the second quarter, Pratt extended his consecutive passing touchdown streak to 15 games.
• Carroll scored his 22nd career touchdown, as he plunged in from a yard out in the third quarter.
• Carroll rushed for a team best 80 yards and hauled in a pair of catches for 67 yards. His 67 receiving yards were a career high.
• Will Wallace hauled in his second touchdown reception of the year.
• Duece Watts, James and Booker tied for the team lead with four receptions apiece.
• Duece Watts led the team with 79 yards receiving.
• Defensive starters for the Green Wave were DL JoJo Dorceus, DL Jeffery Johnson, DL Noah Seiden, LB Dorian Williams, LB Marvin Moody, DB Jadon Canady, DB Jaylon Monroe, DB Ajani Kerr, DB Macon Clark and DB Rudy Dyson.
• Johnson’s start was the 37th of his career which is the most of any player on the defense.
• Williams, Canady and Clark each had eight tackles apiece. Monroe recorded a pair of pass breakups. Canady’s seven solo tackles were a team-best.
• Dorceus recorded a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss.
• Marvin Moody led the team with 2.0 tackles for loss.
• For the first time this season, Tulane failed to create a defensive turnover.
• As a team, Tulane finished the game with 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.
• Punter Ryan Wright finished the game with four punts for 185 yards (46.2 average). His 65-yard punt was his second punt this season of 60 yards or more.
• Wright also completed his first career pass on a fake punt in the fourth quarter.
• Merek Glover connected on one extra point in the second quarter and moved passed Cairo Santos for second all-time in total points.

PRATT FRAT
• In just 15 career appearances, quarterback Michael Pratt has quickly made a name for himself in the college football landscape.
• Pratt has thrown for over 2,500 yards and has 31 touchdown passes in his career.
• His 11 touchdowns this season rank third in The American and 14th nationally.
• Pratt also ranks fifth in the American in passing yards (1,150).
• The Florida native has thrown for multiple touchdown passes in 12 career games.
• Pratt has passed for over 200 yards in seven career games.
• Pratt also has proven to be a force in the running game, as he has rushed and passed for a touchdown in nine career games.
• Against UAB, Pratt threw his first interception of the year in the third quarter against the Blazers. Prior to his interception, Pratt had gone 96 attempts without throwing an interception.

Longest Active Touchdown Streak in FBS
30 – Sam Howell, North Carolina
26 – Dillon Gabriel, UCF
18 – Carson Strong, Nevada
16 – Matt Corral, Ole Miss
16 – Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
15 – Michael Pratt, Tulane
15 – Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

A SCHOLAR AND A FREAK
• Tulane linebacker Nick Anderson was recently recognized as a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.
• Anderson was one of 79 players from the Football Bowl Subdivision that was recognized on as a William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist.
• In the classroom, he holds a 3.7 grade point average and is majoring in Homeland Security. This past December he was selected as one of two departmental recipients of the Stephen Martin Scholars award.
• Prior to the 2021 campaign, Anderson was honored on Bruce Feldman’s annual FREAKS LIST.

THE OLD GUARD
• Tulane linebacker Kevin Henry is one of only two players (USF’s Thad Magnum) in the American Athletic Conference that is in his seventh year playing college football.
• The seventh-year linebacker currently ranks fourth on the team in tackles with 27.
• Earlier this year against Morgan State, Henry collected his first career interception return for touchdown.
• During his five years at Oklahoma State, Henry guided the Cowboys to 45 wins and five bowl appearances.

TULANE ROLLS PAST MORGAN STATE
• Tulane’s matchup with Morgan State was moved to Birmingham, Alabama, as a result of the effects of Hurricane Ida.
• The Green Wave’s 69 points were second-most points scored in Week 2 of the college football season.
• Tulane’s 69-point outburst this past Saturday marked the fourth time the Green Wave have scored 60-or-more points since 2016.
• Prior to Willie Fritz’s arrival in 2016, Tulane had not scored 60-or-more points since 1998.
• The Green Wave opened up a 52-7 lead at the half and never trailed.
• Tulane’s 69-point is the most since the Green Wave put up 72 points against Louisiana-Lafayette in 1998.
• The Green Wave’s 69-point outburst marked the fourth time the Green Wave have scored 60-or-more points since 2016.
• Tulane played 104 players against Morgan State.
• Tulane has now defeated 17 straight opponents from the Football Championship Subdivision.
• As a team, Tulane held Morgan State to just 49 yards in the first half and forced the Bears into three first half turnovers.

GREEN WAVE NEARLY PULLS UPSET AT OKLAHOMA
• After being displaced to Birmingham, Alabama, due to Hurricane Ida, the Tulane football team nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history.
• Tulane scored on its first drive of the game, as it went 55 yards in eight plays.
• The Green Wave and Sooners were tied at 14 after the first quarter, but Oklahoma reeled off 23 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 37-14 lead into the locker room.
• Tulane responded in a big way, as it outscored Oklahoma 21-3 in the second half and had the ball with less than 2:30 remaining, but were unable to pick up the go ahead score.
• The Green Wave’s 35-point effort were the most points Tulane has posted against a Top 5 team in program history.
• Tulane fell just shy of picking up its first-ever victory over a Top 5 opponent.
• Quarterback Michael Pratt finished the game with a career-high three touchdown passes and added one rushing touchdown.
• Pratt’s 296-yard effort was a single-game career high.
• Tight end Tyrick James had career-highs with six receptions and 93 yards receiving.
• Redshirt sophomore running back Cam Carroll caught a career-high two receiving touchdowns.
• As a team, Tulane held Oklahoma to just 118 yards of total offense and forced the Sooners into one turnover in the second half.
• Nick Anderson led the team with 8.0 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
• Tulane tallied a pair of interceptions. Jadon Canady collected his first career interception, while Macon Clark recorded his fourth interception.

GOING TOE-TO-TOE WITH THE BIG BOYS
• Tulane’s near victory over second-ranked Oklahoma is nothing new for Willie Fritz coached teams.
• Fritz’s teams have made a habit of putting a big-time scare into their big-time opponents from the ACC, BIG 12 and SEC.
• In 2018, Tulane took Wake Forest into overtime, but fell 23-17.
• In 2019, Tulane trailed by just eight points (14-6) midway through the third quarter at 10th-ranked Auburn, but ultimately fell 24-6.
• Fritz’s Georgia Southern squad took Georgia into overtime in 2015.
• In 2014, Fritz’s Georgia Southern team nearly defeated NC State on the road, but fell 24-23. In that same season, GSU fell by just four points to a Georgia Tech team that went on to win the Orange Bowl.
• In 2012, Fritz’s Sam Houston State team held a 20-10 halftime lead over Baylor.

A TOUGH SLATE
• The Green Wave’s schedule included non-conference matchups against Oklahoma (Sept. 4), Morgan State (Sept. 11), Ole Miss (Sept. 17) and UAB (Sept. 25). Tulane also will welcome league opponents Houston (Oct. 7), Cincinnati (Oct. 30), Tulsa (Nov. 13) and USF (Nov. 20).
• Tulane’s 2021 schedule is currently tied for the 34th toughest schedule among teams from the FBS.


MEET THE PRESS: Fritz Previews Houston at Weekly News Conference

NEW ORLEANS – Listed below is the complete transcript from Green Wave football head coach Willie Fritz’s weekly press conference leading up to Tulane’s matchup vs. Houston on Thursday.

Opening Statement
“I’ve played a lot of Thursday games here, and you’ve got to have a different format. We came back on Sunday, we got our lift of the week done and watched the film from Saturday. We also turned the page and got ready for Houston and had a big practice yesterday. We cut back a little today and we will cut back a whole lot tomorrow. The last thing you want is for the guys to be tired on gameday Thursday evening. We’ve got a lot of time right now. We always talk about the final 48-hours. They should eat right, sleep in, stay off their feet, hydrate, and get rid of distractions. They can rest up, we really have more like 56, 57 hours. Looking forward, they’re a big challenge. Houston has a very good ball club. Their defense is playing extremely well right now, they are very aggressive up front. They play with a lot of leverage and good tight man coverage. The safeties do a good job of triggering down and playing the run against you, and offensively they have a lot of weapons. They have a very experienced quarterback, a good skill set with their receivers, and they’re very potent in their kicking game with the best punt returner in the country, Marcus Jones. Their kick returner is dynamic as well. So we are going to have to play well in all three phases.”

As the leader of the program right now, do you feel like you are being tested and your team is being tested when you go through a stretch like this?
“It’s difficult, we knew coming into the season that we had a really tough schedule without question. But we’ve got to play really well. I’ve told our guys that our margin for error is very small, we have got to play well. I don’t think we’ve played very well, and sometimes during stretches it’s the offense, it’s the defense, sometimes it’s the kicking game. We have won a lot of ball games around here with all three phases playing well and that allows you to get an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter and that’s where we have got to be. We need to be within striking distance and have that opportunity to win.”

These slow starts you have had recently, is that strictly execution or do you look at pregame efforts and off the field things leading up to kickoff?
“Some of it is adjustments and some of it is execution. Sometimes you get away with nine of the 11 guys doing the right thing, but if the two guys who are doing the wrong thing are at the point of attack — offensively or defensively — you can’t overcome it. That happened a few times defensively where we were there running the ball and had a guy out of the gap. When he was supposed to be in the D he got in the C gap. We were supposed to have an edge fitter and he fit inside. So that really gets you. If they’d been calling the other way we could overcome it by mistake, but they didn’t. And same thing with our offense, we had a couple play calls early in the game where we needed a block at the point of attack and would have had a nice play, but we didn’t get the block. It’s a combination of both things, and sometimes we need to make adjustments. Sometimes we need to do things a bit differently than what they are prepared for and they are going to do some things differently and both the players and the coaches need to adjust to it.”

Do you think that it has been harder to replace those guys from the defensive line than you thought it would be?
“Without question they are great players, they are both playing a ton in the NFL right now, so they are pretty darn good players. I think Patrick (Johnson) got his first start last week and I know Cam (Cameron Sample) got a sack two weeks ago. Both are great players but we have a lot of guys back. Part of our slogan for our team is recruit, retain, develop. We feel like we have guys who could step into those spots. Do we think they’re going to be as good as those two guys right now? No, they’re going to have to get a little bit better. But we have other guys who are older and who should be improved and should be better. Those guys, and anytime you lose a good player, it’s difficult to replace, but I feel like we’ve got enough where we should still have a good defense.”

Last year you guys won there (ECU) and it was an emotional game. Do you feel like you underestimated the intensity that they would come after you guys with?
“No, they’ve got a bunch of big, tall, long and fast athletes. They are very talented. We knew that we were going to have to play really well in order to win. I followed the book and we went after it there at the end of the first half with some timeouts and tried to get the ball. We needed to play catch up. We were receiving the opening kick in the second half, and it was one of the few times I wish I hadn’t followed the book. We came within striking distance and got down two scores. We had a fake punt and threw a pick on the very next play. We just didn’t play with momentum throughout the game. You’ve got to make plays and we had a couple calls defensively where we were supposed to be over the top and we weren’t. We’ve got to do a better job calling and executing. I don’t sit around and point a finger at players, coaches, trainers or managers. It’s everybody involved in the program, we have to get better. As head coach, I’ve got to get better.”
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Jalen McCleskey was here today, what are your thoughts reflecting on him?
“We’re hoping Jalen gets into camp here, he’s really close. He pulled his hamstring while we was with the Saints and has been working to get back to full speed and hopefully he’s picked up by somebody. He’s a fine fine young man.”

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