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Turnovers Cost Green Wave in Birmingham, Tulane falls to Blazers 31-24

One of Tulane’s main offensive problems last year was fumbles and they proved to be fatal again on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Last week when Tulane quarterback Jonathan Banks coughed up the ball on an ugly play against Nicholls, I though it was a fluke and not a holdover from last season’s offensive issues.

Saturday’s game showed I was wrong.

UAB did a brilliant job of getting to Tulane’s dynamic signal caller for much of the afternoon in Alabama. Banks was sacked six times and lost 35 total yards as a result. Even more damaging, though, was the fact that two of those sacks led to Banks losing the ball to the relentless Blazers defense.

One such fumble came in the worst possible place, Tulane’s own end zone right before halftime. Needless to say, that gave UAB the fastest touchdown they’ll get all year. That play was the first of an atrocious series of snaps for the Wave at the end of the second quarter and, had it not been for the Green Wave’s own defense, this score could have looked a lot worse.

Tulane’s secondary successfully created a no-fly zone for most of the game, limiting Blazers quarterback A.J. Erdely to 180 yards through the air and a 44.4 completion percentage. They picked off Erdely twice in the end zone as well.

However, what the Wave did well through the air on defense, they failed to do on the ground. UAB’s Spencer Brown was just one of six Blazers rushers to gouge the Wave with the running game. Brown finished with 101 yards on 24 attempts and a touchdown for a UAB squad that netted 269 rushing yards and averaged just under five yards per attempt on the day.

NCAA Football: Alabama A&M at Alabama-Birmingham
UAB’s Spencer Brown carried 24 times for 101 yards against Tulane.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It was really the Tulane offense that ended up costing the team in the long run though. They turned the ball over three times on Saturday and the points scored off said turnovers ended up being the difference maker.

A team watches game footage to see where they can be better and good news for Willie Fritz and company; there won’t be any shortage of film to examine this week.

The Good: Darnell Mooney continues to be “the guy” for the Green Wave offense. Again the junior receiver put up big-time numbers, this time notching 123 yards on four receptions and two scores. He was responsible for half of Tulane’s points and averaged an outstanding 30.8 yards per catch. The offensive coaches have to be pleased with what they’ve seen out of Mooney so far this year.

For UAB this was the perfect way to bounce back following last week’s loss to Coastal Carolina. So many areas of concern coming in seemed to be fixed for the Blazers this go around. They dominated time of possession (36:39) after being bested in that department by the Chants a week ago. The Blazers also remedied their second-half woes from Conway. After scoring nothing in the final 30 minutes against Coastal, they withstood two Tulane scoring drives out of halftime and put up 10 second-half points to hold on for the win.

The Bad: For Tulane I don’t want to beat a dead horse here with the turnover thing so I won’t, but it was bad (see above).

The Blazers gave the ball away a few times of their own despite the victory. Erdely threw two picks to the Green Wave defense that now has six interceptions on the year. Those two picks now make four for the UAB quarterback this season; not exactly great for a three game span.

The Ugly: Every time the Green Wave offense found themselves in a third down scenario it was almost a foregone conclusion on how it would end. 23.1% (3/13) on third just won’t cut it and we all saw why on Saturday afternoon. Their drives petered out and when all was said and done, Tulane simply ended up giving the ball back to UAB too many times.

Penalties ravaged UAB on Saturday. They gave up 80 yards on eight penalties and, by doing so, allowed Tulane hang around in this game. They’ll have to mend those mistakes before conference play begins.

Tulane’s Silver Lining: One thing I’ve been harping on over the Wave’s first two games was the penalty problems of their own and how they’ve been killer. Prior to Saturday, Tulane had shot themselves in the foot too many times to count but they appeared to reverse that bad habit in Birmingham. The Green Wave only surrendered 25 yards on two flags; a positive to take away from this otherwise disappointing game.

As much as I’d like to wrap this up with something happy for you Wave fans, I really can’t. Ohio State looms. As for the Blazers who have an early-season bye next Saturday, C-USA rival Charlotte comes to town on the 29th.