Sam Hartman looked like a veteran on Thursday night.
With the exception of one boneheaded play in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest’s quarterback appeared to be anything but a true freshman against Tulane. Hartman racked up a whopping 378 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate game and left the Green Wave defense gashed for much of the evening.
Earlier this week it seemed like all I was doing was warning of the dangers of Deacons receiver Greg Dortch and how stopping him would be life or death. What I, much like the Tulane defense, didn’t count on was the explosiveness of another receiver, freshman Sage Surratt. Surratt finished with 150 yards on 11 receptions and actually had more yards than Dortch by game’s end.
The chemistry shown between both Hartman and Surratt was magical, especially considering that both are new to this whole college football thing. The duo looked like they’ve been playing together since Pop Warner. They sliced through the Wave’s defense for most of the night and although Surratt never found the end zone himself, he was still arguably the biggest thorn in Tulane’s side.
For all the positives we saw out of Wake, Willie Fritz’s crew showed promise also. Despite the crushing overtime loss, Tulane flashed glimpses of the high-powered offense they’re capable of fielding on a weekly basis. Quarterback Jonathan Banks and receiver Terren Encalade had the Deacs defense seeing double as they connected on two deep, similar-looking touchdown strikes in the third quarter.
The Green Wave defense also showed signs of hope after an offseason filled with questions following the departures of eight starters. The D picked off Hartman twice and held one of the nation’s more potent offenses to only 23 points; not too shabby for a unit as revamped as they are.
Unfortunately for Tulane, missed opportunities ended up costing them in yet another close contest. It seemed as though every time the Wave managed to reach Wake Forest territory, the drive petered out. Fans in Yulman Stadium saw way more of punter Zach Block than I’m sure they wanted.
The Good: Banks and the offense only turned the ball over once and it was on a weird lateral, desperation play on fourth and a mile in overtime. The lack of turnovers is one of the main reasons the Wave were able to hang around in this game. If this is a sign of things to come then Fritz and his staff should be very pleased.
The Bad: Tulane’s offense started off painfully stagnantly. Every drive they had in the first half ended with a punt and they went into the locker room with a big goose egg on the board. In all, they had eight drives that ended between Wake’s 30 and 40 yard lines. I like Merek Glover as much as the next guy but he’s not an NFL kicker. Tulane will need to get deeper into enemy territory if they want to cash in points off the junior’s foot in the future.
The Ugly: Penalties haunted the Green Wave all game long. Tulane gave up 98 yards on nine penalties in this contest. Not to mention there was a fatal hands-to-the-face call on their lone overtime possession that cost them any chance of scoring. This trend definitely cannot continue if the team hopes to find success moving forward.
Silver lining: Let’s end things on a positive note though. When all was said and done, Tulane did take a Power Five team into OT and had ample opportunity to knock them off. Encalade was in fine form, finishing with 189 yards and two scores. Expect big things from the senior this season. And finally, the defense looked pretty stout all things considered. Two interceptions and 17 regulation points allowed to a scary-talented Deacons offense? There’s definitely no reason for Green Wave fans to hit the panic button at all. This season still has the makings to be a good one. Next up, Nicholls State.