NEW ORLEANS — Bob Toledo has seen this before.
In a game Tulane’s coach said would provide a gauge for the progress of his football program, the final measurement proved to be far short of where Toledo hoped it would be.
In its Conference USA opener, the Green Wave (1-1, 0-1 C-USA) lost 31-3 to Tulsa in front of 19,752 fans at the Superdome.
“There is no doubt in my mind that everyone on this team believed we were going to beat these guys,” Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin said. “We did press, and we really killed ourselves. It’s just tough coming out here and losing like we did.”
It’s the Wave’s seventh consecutive loss to the Golden Hurricane (1-1, 1-1), none of which have been closer than 24 points.
For most of the first half, it appeared that streak would be coming to an end, with the scored locked in a 3-3 tie until the final minutes of the second quarter.
But once Tulsa found its offensive rhythm, Tulane didn’t provide any response.
“What’s sad is that we had some opportunities to get some momentum and then we shot ourselves in the foot,” Toledo said. “Every time we could get a little break or a little momentum, we couldn’t capitalize on it, and that’s something you have to do.”
Tulane opened the scoring with a 32-yard Cairo Santos field goal, set up by Ryan Travis’ interception return to the Tulsa 31-yard line.
The 3-0 first quarter advantage marked Tualne’s first lead over Tulsa since the series became an annual affair in 2005.
The Wave didn’t have long to celebrate the occasion.
Tulsa responded two drives later with a field goal of its own, but in a sign of things to come, the Hurricane offense provided the heavy lifting by marching 66 yards in less than two minutes.
The Wave’s offense failed to respond, and its defense eventually buckled under the relentless Tulsa spread attack.
After being bottled up for most of the first half, the Hurricane found its groove, moving down the field at breakneck speed. Quarterback G.J. Kinne conducted a 73-yard touchdown drive in less than two minutes to end the opening half, then led an 82-yard scoring drive within three minutes of the second half’s onset.
“At half, we felt like we still had control,” Toledo said. “We felt like everything would be fine, just keep playing. All of a sudden, they take the second half kickoff and score. Then, it’s just trying to catch up.”
Kinne continued the onslaught in the fourth quarter, completing two more touchdown passes, one from 40 yards away on a 35-second drive and another from 1-yard, capping a three-minute drive to bring the Hurricane its final margin of victory.
“I think we established our tempo,” Kinne said. “Honestly, we just played better in the second half. We didn’t play very well in the first half. I don’t know what it was, but we came out a little flat.
“We were preaching all week that we couldn’t come out flat, and we did.”
Despite a slow start and an exit midway through the fourth quarter, Kinne racked up 241 yards and three touchdowns, completing 21 of 29 pass attempts.
“He is a heck of a football player,” Toledo said. “I thought he did a nice job. He is tough to get to, he can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. He did that tonight. He made some nice throws and got away from pressure.”
Meanwhile, Tulane’s offense continued to stall. Following the converted field goal in the first quarter, the Wave moved into Tulsa territory six times, yet came away with zero points.
Two missed field goals, two lost fumbles, an interception and a turnover on downs, denied the Wave any chance to hang tough against a high-powered offense. Griffin was pressured throughout and sacked five times as Tulane’s offensive line failed to gain any footing against Tulsa’s quick and aggressive defensive front.
“They definitely brought some pressure from the edge,” senior guard Harris Howard said. “Also, they have a talented linebacker corps. Tulsa was just better than us tonight.”
Tulane averaged just 1.7 yards per carry and 4.2 yards per pass attempt, a far cry from the statistics posted in its 47-33 win over Southeastern Louisiana last week. Tulane failed to even muster a touchdown on Saturday, the first time it has gone without a trip to the end zone since Nov. 21, 2009.
“We definitely beat ourselves,” Griffin said. “We had too many turnovers and way too many mistakes. Whether it was dropping balls or throwing interceptions, we just killed ourselves.”