Tulane reverts to previous form to shrink chances for bowl game
When it comes to Tulane football, it is more of the same, unfortunately.
Just when you are ready to embrace the Green Wave after a stunning, stellar performance in an upset victory over Memphis, the same old Green Wave returned Saturday in a game I was able to view until its bitter end.
First, give Cincinnati credit. The Bearcats are unbeaten and are a good, not great team. A year ago, Tulane looked like a better team than Cincinnati in New Orleans but the Green Wave lost a brutal 17-16 decision.
What a difference a year makes! Cincinnati is significantly better while Tulane, which was expected to be better, is not.
Tulane gets a much needed week off before hosting SMU a week from Saturday. A year ago, it was the Mustangs that got away with one in Dallas which Tulane may have actually won, depending on your point of view.
SMU is 2-4, with losses to North Texas (5-1), TCU (3-2), nationally-ranked Michigan (5-1) and unbeaten Central Florida (5-0). The Mustangs have given up an average of 39.7 points per game. This should be a game Tulane gets well on offensively.
Of course, that is largely dependent on an offense playing much better than it did in Cincinnati.
Justin McMillan led Tulane on a pair of first half scoring drives, the first of which was a thing of beauty. That earned him the entire second half, in which he was largely ineffective until a late score.
Unwittingly, Willie Fritz has created a quarterback controversy. He has a decision to make.
Clearly, Fritz is unhappy with the way Jonathan Banks has performed inconsistently in this, his senior season. Banks was a primary reason for significant optimism for Fritz and his staff internally and for Tulane fans and observers, including myself, externally.
It simply has not happened. Banks has struggled with accuracy and decision making.
Fritz has an extra week to decide who to go with. A team needs a leader that it can follow.
Tulane has made offensive line adjustments but the Green Wave got beat up front by a good Cincinnati team.
Defensively, Tulane would stop the Bearcats for two or three plays but then gave up the big play. The Bearcats had touchdowns covering 81, 25, 28, and 25 yards while the other was from 15 yards out.
Perhaps more troubling are the mistakes.
You cannot allow a punt to be blocked. This was reminiscent of the Curtis Johnson regime.
You cannot get a stop and then commit a critical, bone-headed 12-men-on-the-field penalty. Instead of getting the ball back, Tulane quickly yielded a touchdown, crippling its momentum and chances to pull the upset.
You cannot be penalized 12 times for 90 yards on the road as an underdog and expect to have a chance to win. You cannot lose time-of-possession when that is supposedly your personality.
Then, you have a receiving corps that should be improved but continues to drop way too many balls, regardless of who the quarterback is.
If you are looking for a silver lining, freshman Amare Jones was explosive on kickoff returns.
Still to come are conference road games at Tulsa, South Florida and Houston. The other home games include East Carolina and Navy.
At 2-4, Tulane must five of its final six games to have a winning season, four of its last six to get to .500 and be bowl eligible.
Tulsa played Texas tough but is just 1-4. South Florida is unbeaten and nationally ranked. Houston is 4-1, scoring points in bushels, averaging 50 points per game and will be bent for revenge at home against the Green Wave. East Carolina is 2-3 but the Pirates beat North Carolina and played South Florida tough. Navy is 2-3, losing by one to SMU and beating Memphis by a point.
It is quite possible that Tulane will defeat Tulsa, East Carolina and Navy but that only gets you to five wins and none of those is by any means a sure thing. Tulane would have to sweep those games and find a win against either South Florida or at Houston.
Despite a remaining schedule that it can compete with, it is hard to muster confidence in Tulane’s ability to accomplish the goal which I predicted the Green Wave would reach prior to the season. That is truly disappointing.
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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…