The Green Wave... after two excruciating weeks... are back in the win column thanks to a 38-26 win over Tulsa.
It all started following a Merek Glover field goal. Already with a 3-0 lead early in the first, the Tulane defense held strong when the Golden Hurricane offense opted to go for it fourth and long deep in Green Wave territory. Quarterback Zach Smith’s pass to receiver Sam Crawford Jr. came up short of the sticks and the Wave capitalized shortly after.
Justin McMillan scampered in for a 5-yard score to give Tulane a 10-0 lead, an edge they held at the end of the first quarter. McMillan’s touchdown was the first of four that he would be responsible for on Saturday. He finished the contest looking much more like his old self with 184 passing yards, and 73 rushing yards.
In the second quarter the Greenies continued to roll, but not until Tulsa took a 13-10 lead off the back of two Jacob Rainey field goals and a Corey Taylor II touchdown run. Taylor finished the day with 49 yards on the ground, second on the team only to Shamari Brooks. Brooks had 65 yards.
The Golden Hurricane’s first lead of the contest was short-lived, though, as McMillan’s second rushing TD gave Tulane the advantage they wouldn’t relinquish. Defensive back Willie Langham extended that lead to ten when he recovered a fumble and returned it 13 yards to the house. Tulane led 24-16 at half.
From there, Willie Fritz’s Greenies were able to cruise to victory. Tulane’s defense held Tulsa to a goose egg in the third quarter while the offense put up another touchdown. In the fourth Tulsa would score again but it was too little too late as the Wave rolled to the 12-point win.
The Good: If you’re Tulsa, you’ve got to be pleased with Smith’s performance throwing the ball. Their junior signal-caller was well over the 200-yard mark and didn’t toss an interception to the stingy Green Wave D. He had one touchdown on the afternoon and successfully spread the ball around to five different receivers. He was the steady hand in an otherwise tumultuous day for the Golden Hurricane.
For the second year in a row Tulane has clinched bowl eligibility and they’ve got to be happy it didn’t take them until the final minute of the last game to do it this time. Saturday’s win was just what the spiraling club needed because a third consecutive loss would have all but ravaged their already-fragile morale. It was all clicking for the Wave this weekend and there’s plenty to build on heading into the off week.
The Bad: Tulsa was quite inefficient on third down, going just 6-of-15 (40%). What’s worse is that when they found themselves on fourth, they were even worse, converting one time in three tries. Those numbers simply weren’t good enough on the road against a team like Tulane.
Despite the win, the Wave turned the ball over four times. Two lost fumbles paired with two McMillan interceptions has to have Fritz shaking his head. With teams like Temple and SMU still on the docket, the turnovers better get fixed because Tulane most likely won’t see the same result against the AAC’s tougher opponents.
The Ugly: Big picture-wise, Tulsa once again drops out of bowl eligibility. This is now the third season in a row that Phillip Montgomery’s group has failed to reach postseason play. Now at 2-7, you’ve got to wonder if his job is now hanging in the balance.
The Green Wave were once again haunted by their all-too-familiar bugaboo: penalties. 13 times they were flagged on Saturday for a staggering 139 yards. We’ll just let those stats speak for themselves.
Up Next: The Golden Hurricane (2-7, 0-5 AAC) now return home to face UCF. The Knights ride in on the heels of a big win over Houston and will be a tough rebound for Tulsa.
Tulane (6-3, 3-2 AAC) gets a week to rest before they hit the road to take on Temple. The Owls, who had a bye this week, will also see some extended prep time as they play a Thursday night contest against USF later this week. The Greenies will have their work cut out for them in Philly on the 16th.