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Tulane’s Mid-Season Report: What we’ve learned and where we go from here

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The Green Wave is on a bye giving us the perfect chance to break down what’s been a roller coaster campaign to this point.

Tulane v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

As we enter Tulane’s week off that comes at the exact midway point of their season it only seems fitting that we take a look back at the first six games and peek ahead at the remaining six. There’s been plenty of lessons, good and bad, that have come from the Green Wave’s up-and-down fall.

What we learned from the games so far...

v Wake Forest: The close-game issues that plagued the team in 2017 are by no means gone.

This was a tough one. It wasn’t one of those “they should’ve won” situations as Wake was favored going in but what was disheartening was the fact that Tulane had ample opportunities to pull it off and squandered them. Receiver Terren Encalade scored two touchdowns and the Wave did take a P5 team into overtime and there’s something to be said for that. But losing an OT heartbreaker to start the season had to give the guys flashbacks of some of their nail-biting losses last year.

v Nicholls State: Corey Dauphine is for real.

In what was the first ever meeting between these two in-state schools, the Colonels were coming in riding high off an upset win over Kansas the week prior. The scrappy FCS team was looking to make Jonathan Banks and company their second FBS victim but the Wave wouldn’t have it. Running back Corey Dauphine had a breakout performance rushing for 152 yards and three touchdowns all on six carries. His 69-yard bolt to the end zone was just one of his many highlights. Nicholls is probably happy they don’t have to see the Texas Tech transfer again.

Memphis v Tulane
Corey Dauphine is one of two Tulane rushers with five touchdowns this season.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

at UAB: Turnovers can cost you wins (duh).

In another one that had to be difficult for Green Wave fans to stomach, Banks fumbled the ball twice and threw a pick. One of those fumbles directly led to seven points and coincidentally Tulane dropped this game to the Blazers by a touchdown. It should be noted that they didn’t turn the ball over for two games after this. Still, this one leaves a sour taste.

at Ohio State: There’s no quit in Willie Fritz’s guys.

Things went exactly as we thought they would in Columbus. Dwayne Haskins only needed a half to dismantle Tulane’s D and the game was over by the third quarter. Still the Greenies fought until the bitter end and hey, they didn’t let the Buckeyes break 50. That’s more than the likes of Oregon State and Rutgers can say.

v Memphis: The Wave can compete in the American.

Coming in the Tigers were favored to win by 15 and why wouldn’t they be? They have one of the best running backs in the nation in Derrell Henderson and the offense was averaging nearly 600 yards per contest. However Tulane put on a show and didn’t let Memphis do much of anything. The defense tallied seven sacks, more than doubling their prior total and held Henderson to a measly 51 yards. Darius Bradwell, Darnell Mooney and Dauphine all joined the touchdown party and the Green Wave rolled to a 40-24 win. The victory left many including myself scratching their heads about Tulane’s potential this season. A double digit win over a team that was in the AAC Championship last season is nothing to ignore.

at Cincinnati: Justin McMillan may be taking the reins at QB and that’s alright.

Another ugly loss left Tulane fans trying to find any positives they could. The biggest of those silver linings was quarterback Justin McMillan who transferred over to the team just five days before the start of the season. The former LSU backup came in replacing Banks, who Willie Fritz made clear was not shoo in for the starting job, and performed well doing so. He completed 11 of his 26 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. This marked the third game in which McMillan saw playing time and he still has yet to toss an interception. New starter? Maybe. And if he is, Wave fans shouldn’t be upset about it. Not that Banks has played poorly, but sometimes a change in scenery is needed and after what we saw in Cincy it can’t hurt.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Cincinnati
Quarterback Justin McMillan has thrown three touchdowns and no interceptions as Jonathan Banks’ backup.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

What Tulane needs to do in the games to come…

v SMU: Exercise its demons.

Many point to Tulane’s contest against the Mustangs last season as the reason they missed out on a bowl game. In reality you could blame it on any one of their losses but this one made an easy scapegoat because the Wave came up an inch short at the goal line as time expired on the last game of the year. The controversial ending was perhaps the most stinging moment of 2017 and you can bet these guys have this game circled on their calendars. That being said, this is a new year and dwelling on last season’s shortcoming won’t do any good. This time it goes down in New Orleans and while this game alone will not make or break a bowl bid, at 2-4 it feels like a must win.

at Tulsa: Avoid the “trap game”

Last year’s win over the Golden Hurricane was Tulane’s easiest but they shouldn’t be counting on that this time. Tulsa has been a cellar dweller in the American for years however they have shown glimpses of being competitive. It’ll be important for the Wave to treat this one like any other game and come with business on the mind. A road game against an “easy” opponent could spell trouble.

at South Florida: Pull out another Memphis-game performance

If there’s one team that’s inconsistently consistent in the American it’s the Bulls. They always find a win but sometimes it’s with 20 points and sometimes it’s with almost 60. To be safe Tulane should prepare for the latter. In order to keep pace with the kind of offensive potential South Florida can bring the Wave will need to adhere to the formula that got them the improbable win over the Tigers; hold the ball for as long as possible and lock it down on defense. That’s much easier said than done and this time it’ll be on the road. Can lightning strike twice? We’ll find out in Tampa.

v East Carolina: Be ready for anything.

This year’s Pirates team is an enigma. They got blown out of the water by Temple, barely lost to South Florida and walloped North Carolina. And as far as the Green Wave is concerned this game always seems to be a knock-down-drag-out fight. Last year’s bout in Greenville needed overtime to decide it and ECU dominates the all-time series with Tulane 11-4. The Wave shouldn’t count on any easy win even if it is at home. Who knows what we’ll see go down on Nov. 10 but whatever Pirates club shows up Tulane should expect a close one.

at Houston: Channel the 2017 magic.

Tulane’s most unlikely triumph last season came at the demise of the Cougars. In a game the Wave had no business winning they put up 417 total yards of offense and held Houston to a mere 17 points. They’ll need to duplicate that performance against a dangerous team under the bright Thursday night lights in Texas. Hopefully Encalade, who’s had a relatively quiet senior season, comes alive by this point and has another one of those nice 64-yard scoring strikes.

NCAA Football: Houston at Tulane
Terren Encalade breaks away from Houston defenders in last year’s win against the Cougars.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

v Navy: Finish strong.

Wherever the Green Wave sit in the bowl race or American standings they’ll want to end the season on a high note. If they’re on the bubble then of course this game becomes that much more significant but for everyone; fans, players and coaches alike, a win to close out the 2018 campaign will be nice. Hopefully they’re doing more than playing for pride at this point but even if they are Tulane will have the chance to wrap things up in front of the home fans. They’ll want to do it the right way. Plus, last year’s game with the Mids was just… odd. If anything the Wave will be trying to get the taste of that two-point defeat out of their mouth.

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So far it’s been an interesting season to say the least. My initial preseason predictions are pretty much shot to hell six games in but hey there’s still six to go. If we’ve learned anything from this team halfway through it’s that they’re still a big question mark. 2-4 isn’t ideal but there’s still time to turn things around. Buckle up everyone, it’s shaping up to be a wild second half.