Location: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, November 10
Time: 3:00 p.m. CT
Records: Tulane 4-5 (3-2 AAC), East Carolina 2-6 (0-5 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -13.5; O/U 55
All-Time Series: East Carolina leads 11-4
Last Meeting: Tulane 31, East Carolina 24 (Nov. 11, 2017)
Quick Hits: The Green Wave return home from a successful road trip looking good as far as injuries are concerned. The only player of note that may be unavailable Saturday is quarterback Jonathan Banks. Banks is listed as questionable for undisclosed reasons however Justin McMillan is expected to start regardless.
East Carolina doesn’t have many notable injuries to discuss either. Quarterback Reid Herring missed last week’s game with a concussion and seems unlikely to play going into this weekend. If Herring can’t play, backup Holton Ahlers will get the nod.
From Tulane’s Perspective: There is perhaps not a team in the American right now riding higher than the Wave. After narrowly defeating Tulsa two weeks ago, Tulane dismantled South Florida last Saturday in what was most certainly the conference’s upset of the week. Now facing the reeling Pirates at home, the Wave will need to be wary of a “trap game” against a team they’re favored to beat.
It will all start with the play of the running backs. Last week against the Bulls, Tulane’s rushers put up season bests in yards (368), average (7.1 per rush) and touchdowns (five). Corey Dauphine spearheads the dangerous Green Wave ground game. On the season, Dauphine has 635 yards and seven scores to his name and he’s not even the team’s leading rusher.
That distinction goes to Darius Bradwell who has 750 yards and eight touchdowns. Bradwell has been virtually impossible to stop, recording a touchdown in each of the last seven outings (the last time he didn’t find the end zone was in early September). Behind Bradwell and Dauphine is the talented freshman Amare Jones, who also notched a touchdown last weekend, and Stephon Huderson who has been solid as well.
ECU, though, is allowing just over 160 rush yards per contest meaning that the Green Wave backs could have some difficulty finding running lanes. Still, this is the same unit that shredded South Florida. That average may go up after this one.
Justin McMillan has been holding down the quarterback spot after being named the starter last month. He’s helped out his supporting cast of running backs by racking up some serious ground yards of his own. In his last two games, McMillan has carried for 130 yards and three scores. Watch for Tulane’s signal caller to tuck it and make some things happen with his legs.
For all the success McMillan is seeing on the ground, however, his passing numbers have been less than ideal. Since earning the starting job, he has thrown for a mere 153 yards and no touchdowns. In fact, the last time the Wave as a team saw a touchdown through the air was in Cincinnati nearly a month ago.
Tulane will look to rejuvenate their aerial attack against a Pirate defense that is surrendering over 230 yards per game. Receivers Terren Encalade and Darnell Mooney will be key components in doing so. Encalade notched a season low 15 yards last week (two catches) while Mooney wasn’t much better with only 39.
Defensively, Tulane looks to wreak havoc on yet another opposing QB. Linemen Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample have combined for 10.5 sacks this year along with 15.5 tackles for loss. Johnson is second in the American with 7.5 sacks behind only ECU’s Nate Harvey. The Green Wave, coincidentally, boast the conference’s second best rush defense and is also runner-up in sacks recorded (25). Oh yeah, Robert Kennedy and Zachery Harris aren’t bad either. East Carolina’s offense could be in for a long evening.
From East Carolina’s Perspective: If Reid Herring has to miss his second straight game, the Pirates will have to turn to Holton Ahlers. The freshman has seen playing time in seven games this season and hasn’t done too terribly. He is one yard shy of eclipsing 1,000 and has a five-to-one touchdown/interception ratio. The Wave’s defense, though, could ruin that percentage if Ahlers isn’t careful. They have nine picks this year.
Trevon Brown will be public enemy No. 1 for that Tulane defense. ECU’s senior receiver leads the team with 838 yards and has six touchdowns. He could be a major part of the Pirates’ game plan seeing as the Wave’s defense is so dominant against the run. Brown will be looking to get the best of cornerback Donnie Lewis who has three picks and a touchdowns this season. Watching these two go at it should be a treat for everyone.
Behind Brown are fellow wide outs Deondre Farrier (372 yards on 30 catches) and Blake Proehl (263 yards, 25 receptions). These two will also play a vital role in ECU’s offensive strategy.
Where East Carolina will be heavily outmatched, at least on paper, is in the running game. They rank second to last in the AAC with not even 1,000 total yards on the ground. That doesn’t bode well going against this Green Wave front (see above).
Ahlers is the club’s leading rusher with 374 yards. The next best is running back Anthony Scott who has yet to break 300 yards on the year. Don’t expect things to pick up too much in this department come Saturday; if ECU is going to win they’re most likely going to have to do it with Ahlers’ arm and Brown’s hands.
End Nate Harvey will be the guy to watch on defense. Harvey, as mentioned prior, is the conference’s number one sack getter with 9.5. He also has authored a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss. His hands will be full with the slew of runners Tulane will throw at him but he is certainly up to the task. For a team that has a dismal -13 turnover margin, Harvey is easily the most exciting part of the defensive unit.
Final Thoughts: I posed the question last weekend for Tulane; what is a more powerful motivator, anger or desperation? The answer was clearly desperation and good news for the Green Wave, they still have it. Despite last week’s victory, they still have their backs against the wall in the race for a bowl bid. The Wave can only lose one more game and still technically have a chance. With a doozy in Houston coming up, that loss better not come here at the hands of the Pirates.
This game will hinge largely on how well guys like Harvey can handle the Green Wave rushers. If Tulane does what it did last week against South Florida, ECU should just keep the team plane on and warmed up. If they can bottle up the Wave’s triple-option attack, though, then who knows what might happen. Last year this game took overtime to decide. With that being said, I like Tulane at home in this one, especially after that shocker last week.
Prediction: Tulane 31 – East Carolina 20