By the time you read this, Tulane's season would have long been over. Chances are, not many people make it over to this sleepy borough anyway to read about the hapless Green Wave, but that's why we're here — just in case someone gets to clicking around late at night.
On November 28, Tulane wrapped up its 2015 campaign with a 45-34 loss to Tulsa. Senior Night started out with so much promise, though. The Green Wave led 34-24 early in the fourth quarter, but the Golden Hurricane reeled off 21 unanswered points — 14 on back-to-back Pick-6s — to become bowl eligible and rain on the festivities.
That loss dropped Tulane to 3-9 overall (1-7 in the American Athletic Conference) and spelled the end to Curtis Johnson's run as head coach. The Green Wave fired Johnson the next morning and embarked on a new era in Uptown New Orleans.
There weren't that many bright spots for Tulane in 2015 as its three wins came against Maine (FCS program), UCF (basically an FCS program) and Army-West Point. Those juggernauts had a combined record of 5-29 when this article was published, with the Black Knights still to play their annual rivalry game versus Navy.
Let's take a look at what went wrong this season for the Green Wave and offer ideas on how to fix those issues.
Everything To Do With The Offense
Just when you thought Tulane couldn't get any worse on offense, they upped the ante in 2015. Take a look at the chart below comparing the Green Wave's output from 2014 to 2015, which includes a stat called Punts Per Play (PPP).
|Year||Scoring Offense||Rushing Offense||Total Offense||1st Downs||PPP|
Yikes. Those are rough.
The only metric to increase is Tulane's points per game, mainly because they put up an average of 39 points in its three wins. Want to know how many points the Green Wave scored in losses? Try 13.2 — which was helped a lot in the final two games of the season where Tulane played SMU and Tulsa, two teams with two of the worst defenses in the nation (126th and 120th, respectively).
The Green Wave just couldn't string together successful drives in 2015, mainly because it couldn't gain any traction on the ground. Tulane rushed for fewer than 75 yards in three games, including an eight-yard abomination against Temple on the road.
Quarterback Tanner Lee also regressed from his freshman to his sophomore season. Let's take a look at the stats and it should be noted Lee suffered two broken fingers on his throwing hand and a concussion this season.
Many of Lee's troubles can be traced back to the awful offensive line that tried to block for him. Lee rarely had time to scan the field before the defense bore down on him. The sophomore was flat on his back nearly 10 percent of the time he dropped back to pass.
Even when Lee had time, the offensive line can't be blamed for him throwing behind receivers or nearly being picked off on screens. Those, among others, are two things that fall squarely on Lee's shoulders.
How To Fix It
Getting rid of Johnson was a good start. For being a coach with years of experience on the offensive side of the ball, it sure didn't show on the field during his tenure at Tulane.
poor sap coach the Green Wave hire next must piece together a competent offensive line. Four of the five starting offensive linemen on the preseason depth chart were upperclassmen, so youth was not an excuse for what the Green Wave put on the field in 2015.
If the offensive line get worked out, it should help Lee, who should be on a short leash next year. I stated before that Lee consistently passes the eye test (meaning he has the look of an FBS quarterback), but he doesn't pass the real test (the actual performance on the field). Lee has a lot of work to do in between his sophomore and junior years — build arm strength, improve accuracy, learn the new playbook — and depending on how far he comes along, the offense should follow.
Truly "Special" Teams
Just look at this.
|Year||Avg. Punt||Avg. Net Punt||Punt Ret. Avg.||Kick Ret. Avg.|
|2015||36.3 yards||31.9 yards||6.3 yards||18.3 yards|
You've got to be kidding me! How can an FBS team be so bad at special teams?
The lone bright spot for the unit was the play of sophomore kicker Andrew DiRocco, who made nine of the 10 field goals he attempted. In Week 10, DiRocco drilled a game-winning 35-yard field goal to conquer Army.
But, seriously: It's not like Tulane didn't have plenty of opportunities to work on its punting or kick returns. The Green Wave punted 82 times this season — the third most in school history — and opponents scored at will on the defense to the tune of 36.2 points per game. Despite being Tulane's Punt King, Peter Picerelli only averaged 36.7 yards per kick. Plus, the media lost count of how many times Green Wave returners bobbled the ball near the goal line and forced the offense to start inside its own 10-yard line (I'm looking at you, Devon Breaux).
How To Fix It
If someone can't handle their duties, find someone who can. Johnson waited too long to pull Picerelli and/or long snapper Michael Lizanich early in the season when it was clear the two didn't mesh well. The same can be said for any of those kick returners Johnson tried and ultimately failed.
This is one area in which Tulane doesn't have much control over.
The AAC is going to schedule how its going to schedule, but it definitely didn't do the Green Wave any favors in 2015. Tulane ran a gauntlet in the middle of the season in which it faced the conference's best teams in back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks. The Green Wave lost those games — at Temple, versus Houston, at Navy and at Memphis — by a combined score of 163-44.
With a new coach at the helm, Tulane can prepare better for those games and not look as out of sorts as it did in the first two games of that stretch, which set the tone. To the Green Wave's credit, it made the Midshipmen sweat and that long drive at the start of game against the Tigers was a thing of beauty.
Confidence goes a long way, especially for a team like Tulane.
How To Fix It
Outside of scheduling easier games to start the season, you can't. Just grin and bear it.
First things first, the university needs a new athletic director and once he or she is hired, it can begin the process to find a new coach.
Who that coach will be is anybody's guess. And to expect the Green Wave to make a splash with its coaching hire is certainly a stretch due to the nature of the position and program, but crazier things have happened.
Tulane can't afford to whiff again.