Location: Yulman Stadium – New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, October 12
Time: 2:45 p.m. CT
Records: Tulane 4-1 (1-0 AAC), UConn 1-4 (0-2 AAC)
Betting Line: Tulane -34; O/U 59
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 2-1-0
Last Meeting: UConn 13, Tulane 38 (November 26, 2016)
Quick Hits: It’d be pretty hard to come into this contest feeling better than the Green Wave must right now. 4-1, fresh off a huge road victory over Army and already 1-0 in conference play? That good footing can only serve Tulane well as they return home this Saturday to take on UConn. The offense is performing at video-game-like levels, having now put up at least 35 points in four games. The ground attack can’t be stopped, or so it seems, and suddenly Willie Fritz finds himself as the coach of a real contender in the American.
The Huskies are sitting in a much different boat. Coming in with only one win thus far (over an FCS team), UConn is set to depart from the AAC after the 2019 campaign. And, at this rate, they’re going to leave the conference in the same way they lived in it: unnoticed with a barely-audible whimper. Their most recent flub was a 48-22 whipping against USF and now they find themselves pitted against a Tulane team that’s riddled with talent. Uh oh.
From UConn’s Perspective: Let’s be real, Connecticut is going to need a lot to go right if they are to pull off a monster upset in New Orleans. While they may require some assistance from lady luck, the Huskies will have to help themselves as well. They can do that by, first and foremost, avoiding costly penalties. UConn has a hard enough time as it is with third downs, converting just 29% of the time (20-of-69). Fans are seeing far too much of punter Luke Magliozzi and if they do so again this weekend, it wall almost certainly spell disaster.
Only five teams in the entire country are currently holding opposing teams to a sub-50% completion percentage and Tulane is one of them (49.4%). That means that quarterback Mike Beaudry will need to be sharp. Last week against South Florida Beaudry completed 18 of his 29 passes for 209 yards and a TD. The good news is that he threw no interceptions, the bad news is that those numbers probably won’t get it done against this Green Wave defense that is tied for second in the AAC with picks (six).
Receivers Cameron Ross and Ardell Brown will need help Beaudry out. Ross currently leads the team with 274 receiving yards and a touchdown this season while Brown has 15 catches for 151 yards and a score as well. They will need to find a way to navigate through Tulane DBs Chase Kuerschen (25 tackcles, 1 INT) and P.J. Hall (22 tackles, 1 INT). Hall’s only interception this season went for a 30-yard touchdown... needless to say, UConn will need to be wary when passing.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, the sledding won’t get any easier trying to run. Last week, Tulane’s rush defense held a normally-dominant Army ground game to under 200 yards. They are averaging just 156.4 rush yards surrendered per contest this year.
Running back Kevin Mensah, who has four touchdowns this season, will need to be UConn’s workhorse. Last week he didn’t crack the century mark but did find the end zone twice. Mensah could be in for a long day, though, against Tulane’s smothering D line that’s made up of the likes of Patrick Johnson and Cam Sample. That duo has combined for 8.5 tackles for loss this season as well as 3.5 sacks.
Defensively, Connecticut will need to find an answer for Green Wave QB Justin McMillan. McMillan is tearing it up so far this fall with both his legs and his arm, The dual-threat signal caller has thrown for 811 yards and six scores while running for another 264 yards and five TDs. The guy knows how to slice apart a defense and if UConn doesn’t stop #12 it’s going to be a long day.
Tyler Cole may be an ace in the hole. The DB has snagged an interception that he returned 52 yards for a score this season, forced a fumble and has defended two passes. His 34 total tackles ranks second on the team and he may be the best chance to keep McMillan and Tulane’s talented receiving corps at bay.
Cole’s difficult task will be to stay with guys like Oklahoma State transfer Jalen McCleskey who has 190 yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches this season. Him and fellow receiver Darnell Mooney (255 yards, 2 TDs) will be a tall order for the UConn secondary.
Like we said, a lot will need to go right for the Huskies but hey, anything can happen... right?
From Tulane’s Perspective: For the Greenies, the formula is simple: don’t fix what isn’t broken. McMillan, as we stated, is playing lights out right now. He’s only tossed two picks and has been responsible for 11 touchdowns up to this point. Fritz should simply put the ball in his quarterback’s hands and allow him to continue to be the game changer he is.
And if for some reason McMillan can’t do it, he should simply give it to his powerful committee of running backs. Darius Bradwell leads the club with 325 yards (66 carries) while Corey Dauphine has three touchdowns and 277 yards. The former track star Dauphine has blazing speed that makes him nearly impossible to touch when he gets into open field and Bradwell is a bruiser who can wear down a defense. Between these three alone, Tulane... quite frankly... should win the game.
But those are just a few of the dynamic weapons Fritz’s offense can throw at you, Let’s not forget about Mooney and McCleskey as we mentioned prior. And how about last week’s player of the game in sophomore back Amare Jones. Jones had two touchdowns and led the Green Wave receivers, yes the receivers, with 104 yards.
Tulane is smattered with talent and we haven’t even really touched on the defense. Linebacker Lawrence Graham is having a solid season with already 21 tackles, a forced fumble and three tackles for loss. Safety Larry Brooks has two interceptions (leads team) and three defended passes along with 11 tackles.
There’s only so many ways we can say it, Tulane should win this game and win it quite easily.
UConn fans, forgive me for being so blunt but my job here is to realistically break these games down and, well... it doesn’t look good. Now I’m not saying that your beloved Huskies are going to get shut out or even necessarily blown out. All I’m saying is that Tulane isn’t 4-1 with wins over Army and Houston by chance. Willie Fritz has built a real force in the AAC and I’m afraid UConn just can’t step up to their level. (Please, by all means, save this paragraph and throw it in my face if I end up dead wrong here).
Now for Tulane fans. I’ve put some mighty high praise on your Greenies in this preview and now I need them to put their money where my mouth is. If the Wave sticks to the script, doesn’t get too cute and just takes care of business then there’s no reason they won’t be 5-1 after Saturday. Stranger things have happened but I’ve got them winning this one by a landslide.
Prediction: UConn 13 - Tulane 42