Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson talked for nine minutes in his postgame press conference following Thursday's pathetic 37-7 defeat at the hands of Duke before finding a silver lining. Truth be told, the first eight minutes, 59 second of it should have been an apology for the way his team played in the season opener.
"What you do when you look at a loss like this is you find out who the real players are," Johnson said.
Johnson and the Green Wave need to find them sooner rather than later. Four hours before Johnson said that would have been a perfect time for them to show up (That's when the game started).
Before this goes any further, no one should knock the effort Tulane's players gave inside Yulman Stadium, especially the defense. Nico Marley, Richard Allen, Darion Monroe and Co. were on the field for a majority of the 93 plays the Blue Devils' offense ran.
"I feel it right now," Allen said of being on the field for that long. "I'm exhausted."
Marley, Allen and Monroe each did more than their fair share and kept Duke at bay for most of the game while waiting for the offense to get its act together. The trio combined for 33 tackles, four pass break-ups and one fumble recovery.
Problem is, that much like last year, the offense never showed up. There is no word in the English language to describe how bad the Green Wave's offense looked.
On 10 punts, Tulane's Peter Picerelli out-netted the offense by 95 yards (366-271). Picerelli only averaged 36.6 yards per punt. The Green Wave gave Picerelli a workout Thursday as they sent him out there on seven of their first 10 drives, while those other three drives ended in two turnovers on downs and an interception.
Tulane never got its run game going (25 yards on 23 carries), sophomore quarterback Tanner Lee was sacked four times and the only reason the hosts weren't shut out in an opener for the first time since 1969 was because the Blue Devils gifted them a pass interference early in the fourth quarter. Two plays after the penalty, Lee connected with junior wide receiver Devon Breaux on a 76-yard touchdown strike on which Breaux stole the ball out of a Duke defender's hands and ran the rest of the way to the end zone.
"I think they're just a good defense and good defenses don't let you get into a rhythm," said Lee, who completed 24 of his 42 passes for 246 yards. "They don't let you do a lot of the things you want to do. We had a plan and there's worked better than ours. We just didn't play good enough."
Fortunately, the Green Wave has eight days to regroup before taking the field next Saturday at Georgia Tech. Tulane's players assured the media there wouldn't be a hangover from this loss.
"We kind of just ended it right there in the locker room," Lee said. "We got to fix it and we have to fix it now. It's early in the season and we had glimpses. We have to be able to put it all together. We have to figure it out."
If not, as one media member said as we walked to the press conference: "It's going to be a loooooooooong season. Notice I said that with 10 o's, probably the amount of losses this team will have this year if they play like that."