Location: Yulman Stadium - New Orleans, Louisiana
Date: Saturday, September 8
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Radio: ESPN New Orleans 100.3 FM
Records: Tulane 0-1, Nicholls State 1-0
All-Time Series: 0-0
Last Meeting: First Meeting
Quick Hits: Tulane enters their second game of the season looking pretty good on the injury front. Running back Darius Bradwell is currently listed as questionable for Saturday but played fairly frequently against Wake Forest last week while also being labeled questionable. Tight end Charles Jones’ playing status is probable. Jones did not play a week ago due to an ankle injury. Receiver Freddy Canteen is out for the season with a shoulder injury he suffered earlier this summer.
Nicholls State comes into this game more or less full bore after and impressive win against Kansas a week ago.
From Nicholls State’s Perspective: If the Colonels want to oust their second FBS opponent of the young season they should take a page out of Wake Forest’s defensive playbook. Last Thursday the Deacons kept Tulane’s running backs bottled up. The Wave’s leading rushers were quarterback Jonathan Banks and receiver Terren Encalade (38 yards each) while backs Darius Bradwell, Stephon Huderson, and Corey Dauphine combined for only 79 yards.
This is a task that Nicholls could accomplish with relative ease. Last week against the Jayhawks, the Colonel defense held Kansas to a mere 56 yards on the ground. Defensive linemen Sully Laiche and Kenny Dotson will play a major role in not only thwarting the Green Wave rushing attack but also keeping the dynamic Banks contained.
Offensively, the Colonels will be wanting a repeat performance from their own ground game. Running back Kendall Bussey carried 28 times for 123 yards and one score against Kansas. The team’s other two touchdowns also came by way of the rushing attack from quarterback Chase Fourcade and running back Dontrell Taylor. These three combined for 218 yards last Saturday and Nicholls would be smart to make them a hefty portion of their game plan again.
As far as passing goes, the Colonels failed to find the end zone through the air but that doesn’t mean they don’t have options on the outside. Receivers Damion Jeanpiere Jr. and Dai’Jean Dixon will look to make a bigger impact this go around after only combining for 107 yards last week. They will have to get through Donnie Lewis and Roderic Teamer in Tulane’s secondary to do so though.
One main area the Colonels will be looking to clean up is special teams. Against the Jayhawks, a Nicholls muffed punt and a poorly snapped ball into the end zone led to nine Kansas points. That trend, of course, can’t repeat itself if they want to hang around in this game. This could easily be the make-or-break area for the visiting Colonels on Saturday.
From Tulane’s Perspective: Third down, third down, third down! I can’t say it enough for both ends of the ball. Against Wake, the Wave converted only seven of 19 while allowing the Deacs 10/19. Both of those percentages have to be better this week as Nicholls was an even 50 percent on third down last week (10/20). Offensively Tulane will need to be more efficient meaning they’ll want to set themselves up in manageable, two- or three-yard-to-go situations.
It’s hard to come off a loss like last week’s and not be inclined to want to start from square one but I’m a firm believer in the adage “if it’s not broke don’t fix it.” That’s exactly what Tulane’s (second-half) offense should abide by. The Wave will want to use wide out Terren Encalade just as they did last week; run him a little and throw his way often. Encalade, who finished Thursday’s contest with eight catches, a career-high 189 yards and two touchdowns, could have a big day against Nicholls State’s secondary that gave up over five yards per pass attempt last week and two scores.
Darnell Mooney will also be looking to get in on the action. Last week he was the unsung hero of the offense, serving as Banks’ reliable go-to guy with 74 yards on eight receptions against the Deacons.
Then there’s the ground game that, to put it lightly, needs some work. Banks can’t be the sole contributor in this area or the offense is going to be fairly easy to figure out. Willie Fritz’s triple-option attack can be scary-good but it didn’t live up to its potential in the first game as Dauphine and Bradwell were relatively quiet against Wake Forest. If the Wave can really get their backs rolling, Nicholls’ defense will be in for a long evening. It’ll just be a matter of finding the gaps and bursting through.
Defensively, the Wave will look to bust out their newly-minted, and may I say much more attractive, version of Miami’s turnover chain again after doing so twice last week. The “turnover beads” are all the rage in the Big Easy right now and they’ll hope to see more of them against Nicholls who only gave up the ball just once in their opener. Tulane will want to get after quarterback Chase Fourcade early and often with the hopes of pressuring him into errand throws and, ideally, his first interceptions of the season.
It isn’t just Fourcade’s arm the Wave will be concerned with though. The Colonels QB can also hurt a defense with his legs. Against the Jayhawks, he carried 11 times for 44 yards and touchdown. Containing him will be important in setting a defensive tone.
Final Thoughts: Both teams are coming off overtime games but that shouldn’t really affect either going into Saturday night. Tulane has had 10 days to recover from the little bit of extra football they played and the Colonels have had a week. College ball is such a momentum-driven game though and an overtime win is much easier to ride on than an overtime loss. This is where Nicholls will have the advantage thus it’ll be important for the Wave to start fast and erase the sour taste from the Wake Forest defeat.
I took some heat on Twitter a couple of weeks ago from the Nicholls State faithful when my season prediction for Tulane came out. Apparently you Colonel fans didn’t appreciate me calling it a Green Wave victory by 30+. I’ll concede that it may not be that much of a blowout given the performances of these two clubs a week ago but I still do like the home team in this one. It’s a perfect bounce-back opportunity for a Tulane squad that needs it after a lackluster start to their season.
Prediction: Tulane 35 – Nicholls State 17