For the third consecutive year, Willie Fritz’s Tulane team found themselves in a bowl game to wrap up their season. This bowl game, though, was a unique opportunity for the team. The Green Wave traveled all the way up from New Orleans to take the spot of what would normally be a MAC team. To play on Boise State’s blue turf on ESPN, even if it was a Tuesday afternoon, was big for the program.
Much like the rest of 2020, however, things did not go according to plan for Tulane and they left Boise empty-handed as the Nevada Wolf Pack claimed victory in this year’s edition of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
There was little solid ground for the Wave as they entered this game. Chip Long was dipping his feet in the water in his first game as the Greenies’ OC after Will Hall departed for a well-earned head coaching gig with Southern Miss. True freshman QB Michael Pratt would be taking snaps and as a whole Tulane would be without several key players.
Both offenses got off to a slow start as the Wolf Pack, led by sophomore QB Carson Strong, turned it over on downs on their opening possession. Three plays later Pratt threw the first of three interceptions and gave the ball right back to Nevada deep in Green Wave territory. Strong connected with Cole Turner for the 11-yard score and an early 7-0 lead.
Strong would toss two more touchdowns shortly after to begin the second quarter and, despite some failed PATs, Tulane found themselves trailing 19-0 with 12:42 to go in the opening half.
Running back Cameron Carroll and the Green Wave offense finally got it rolling. On a drive in which Carroll toted the ball three times and was targeted another, Tulane got their first score. Pratt hit receiver Jha’Quan Jackson for a 41-yard strike that cut the Wolf Pack lead to 12.
Nevada, though, responded again and pushed the pall to midfield in a fourth and short situation. Tulane was unable to thwart another fourth down attempt as running back Toa Taua sprinted 50 yards for another Wolf Pack touchdown. At halftime the Green Wave trailed 26-7.
The third quarter spelled a much different story. Pratt carried the ball in from six yards out before he connected with Jackson again for another score. A Nevada missed field goal helped the cause and, when the fourth quarter rolled around Tulane was only down six.
Once again, however, the Wolf Pack responded. Pratt’s third interception led to another Strong-to-Turner touchdown. The two teams traded punts before Strong eventually put the game away with his fifth scoring pass of the afternoon, this one to receiver Jamaal Bell.
The Greenies were able to tack on a late touchdown thanks to a long Carroll run but it was too little too late. There would be no third straight bowl win for Fritz and the Wave.
The Good: If they do it right, Tulane’s future is bright. With a young Pratt set to lead this team for years to come, the program must now look yet again to the transfer portal to pick up the necessary pieces to remain relevant in an ever-improving AAC. The good news is that Willie Fritz has a proven history of doing just that over his years in New Orleans. Guys like Corey Dauphine, Justin McMillan and Jalen McCleskey are all talents that made their way to Tulane via the grad-transfer route. When it comes to that department, Wave fans shouldn’t worry about Fritz.
As for Pratt? This young man is the current holder for the school’s record of TD passes thrown by a freshman (18). Yes, the three interceptions on Tuesday weren’t great but let’s cut the kid some slack. He is just beginning his collegiate career after all. If 2020 was an indication of things to come, then Tulane should be in good hands moving down the road.
The Bad: As seems to be the case every season, the team will be losing some significant talent, hopefully to the NFL Draft. Defensive stud Patrick Johnson is on his way out and will leave a hole that the D-line must find a way to fill the void. Johnson, who did not play in the Potato Bowl, ends his Tulane career with 24.5 sacks (an all-time leader in school history), 136 total tackles and six forced fumbles. He was a First Team All AAC selection this season.
The question now is how will the Wave go about replacing a guy like Johnson that seems irreplaceable? Freshman Angelo Anderson got the start on Tuesday but whether or not he is the long-term solution has yet to be determined.
Up Next: As another offseason full of questions looms, Green Wave can take solace in the fact that Fritz seems to be firmly planted in New Orleans for the time being. The team signed him to a multi-year extension earlier this season. With National Signing Day around the corner, it will be interesting to see what the team does. Tulane finishes the 2020 season at 6-6.