Tulane’s response to loss was showcase of their very best against SMU

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Michael Pratt, Tyrick James
(Photo: Parker Waters)

NEW ORLEANS – The No. 21-ranked Tulane Green Wave can expect to move up in the polls once more as they bounced back from Saturday’s 38-31 loss to UCF with a 59-24 thrashing of the visiting SMU Mustangs.

SMU and its pass-happy offense built with Air Raid concepts had scored 40 points or more in six of its 10 previous games in the 2022 season, putting up 77 points on Houston just a couple of weeks ago. But the tables were turned in this game. The Mustangs’ effort was brought to an abrupt halt and never truly was allowed to gain any momentum thanks to the Green Wave’s defense.

Tulane managed five takeaways – three fumble recoveries and a pair of interceptions – off SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai.

It also marked just the third time SMU (6-5) has been held scoreless in the first quarter this season, a feat accomplished only by Cincinnati and TCU before in 2022. In the process, Tulane jumped out to a 21-0 lead and never looked back.

All three phases came together for the Wave. The only real folly of the night came on a muffed punt recovered by Chris Adimora to set up a 19-yard touchdown from Mordecai to tight end RJ Maryland about one minute into the second quarter.

Outside of that, the Green Wave had standout moments on special teams, highlighted by 63- and 55-yard kick returns by wide receiver Lawrence Keys that set up touchdown drives.

By halftime, Tulane (9-2) had stacked up an impressive 35-7 lead over the Mustangs in front of scouts in attendance from a half-dozen NFL teams.

Michael Pratt, Tyjae Spears and Shae Wyatt were all responsible for getting Tulane into the end zone on a night when the scores kept on coming.

Here’s a look at just three players who factored into the resounding victory to keep Tulane in the hunt for the American Athletic Conference title:

QB Michael Pratt

The term “dual-threat quarterback” is far too loosely thrown around among analysts but Pratt has shown himself as a genuine example of that. The third-year starter has increased his completion rate roughly 10 percent in comparison to last season, a product of both growth as a decision-maker and improvements in the supporting cast this season.

The mobility has always been there. Since 2000, Tulane has had a quarterback pass for two or more touchdowns and rush for at least two touchdowns six times. Three of those instances belong to Pratt.

With his 70 yards on the ground, Pratt notched his second-highest rushing total of the season, behind only to the 87-yard performance in the road upset of Kansas State.

Pratt set a career high for total single-game touchdowns with three passing scores and three rushing touchdowns as he completed 64% of his passes for 141 yards, adding 70 yards on the ground. Anyone who knows and has watched Michael Pratt play football knows how much he enjoys being a part of the ground game and getting a piece of the physical contact, something that definitely came to light on this night.

“It was fun, just to have some opportunities and get some pulls. There was some stuff we saw on film all week when we were watching, so to have those opportunities and capitalize on them and make some plays (like that) was positive.”

Pratt headed into the matchup with a 65.5% completion rate, 2,079 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. While picking his battles on the ground more carefully than in past years, Pratt continues show his NFL upside.

“He played well,” Fritz said. “He did a good job with decisions and the first series or two he didn’t pull the ball a couple times on some inside zone read and he did it a little bit later and had some big runs for us…. Really nice job by Michael.”

SS Larry Brooks

There’s been plenty of talk about Dorian Williams and Nick Anderson, and the two standout linebackers are deserving of the the praise as driving forces behind Tulane’s defensive success in 2022. But they’re just two players in a unit littered with talent. Among them is the strong safety Brooks, who entered Thursday’s game with 58 total tackles (40 solo), 2 interceptions and a pass defended.

Brooks finished the game as the team’s second-leading tackler with 9 total (7 solo) along with a forced fumble. With his most impressive statistical game of the season, Brooks will certainly look to build on that momentum next Friday in the crucial matchup at Cincinnati.

RB Tyjae Spears

Spears may have been banged up lately, but that absolutely has not stopped the standout running back from making his mark. The Ponchatoula native has plenty of eyes on him from NFL scouts, something that should not come as any surprise.

Spears recorded his fifth consecutive game of 100 yards or more on the ground (his sixth overall in 2022). He also received an official invite from the Reese’s Senior Bowl. It’s the first time in 19 years that two players from the program (Spears and Dorian Williams) have been invited in the same year.

By the end of the first half, Spears had carried the ball 10 times for 94 yards with one touchdown and finished with 121 rushing yards on 13 carries with two scores.

“He’s got great speed and lateral movement,” Fritz said. “You can run it effectively and it opens everything up in the passing game and we want to be able to do both and we’ve done that most of the season.”

Up Next

The regular season finale at Cincinnati awaits. If the Green Wave wants to capture their first AAC crown, their destiny remains in their hands.

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Crissy Froyd

CCS Columnist

Crissy Froyd is a sports reporter of roughly nine years who graduated from LSU and has spent time at USA TODAY SMG, NBC Sports and the Fan Nation network on Sports Illustrated. She specializes in quarterback analysis and covers the SEC and college football across the state of Louisiana in addition to working with several college quarterbacks across the nation.

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