Now you understand why the word “yikes” came up in this space four weeks ago. The last opponent in Tulane’s incredibly difficult four-game stretch to end October (current combined record: 26-1) is the toughest, with 16th-ranked Memphis (7-0) and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Paxton Lynch awaiting. The Tigers have scored 342 points through seven games (average: 48.9), and Lynch torched SEC West contender Ole Miss for 384 yards and three touchdowns while completing 39 of 53. This is a bad matchup for scoring-challenged Tulane, which relied on its defense to hang close to Navy. The secondary, leaky in pass coverage all year, will have to come up huge to keep this one respectable.
It’s surreal a team could lose to Navy 31-14 while limiting the Midshipmen to 133 rushing yards. That’s a recipe for a routine victory in most cases, but Tulane’s offense could not make a play or catch a break when it mattered. Silly penalties — a recurring theme — helped stopped promising drives, and two questionable spots by the referees proved costly when the Wave could not execute on the next down. Tulane’s best chance to win ended when wide receiver Devon Breaux could not hold on to a pass after hitting the turf in in the end zone late in the second quarter. That catch would have given the Wave a 13-10 lead pending the extra point. Instead, Trevor Simms missed a potential tying field goal badly, and Tulane played catch-up the rest of the way.
Co-defensive coordinator Jason Rollins gets the nod. Granted, it’s up to the player to execute a game plan, but his decision to use a five-man line with three tackles to take away Navy’s bread-and-butter dive play worked to perfection. Tulane practiced in that alignment all week and got inspired performances from interior linemen Tanzel Smart, Corey Redwine and Sean Wilson. Everyone else flew to the ball as Tulane forced quarterback Keenan Reynolds to pitch more than he wanted and held the Middies nearly 200 yards below their rushing average. The Wave registered 11 tackles for loss and had four sacks.
“They play basketball. We just have to come up with another great scheme and match up.”
— Tulane coach Curtis Johnson on the Memphis offense
Keep an eye on
The running backs. Johnson said he hoped to use battering ram Lazedrick Thompson for Memphis after he missed the past three games with an ankle sprain. If he plays, who knows what the rotation will be in Tulane’s mind-numbing shuttle system? Dontrell Hilliard appeared to have it going against Navy but was limited to nine carries (for 51 yards) while sharing time with Sherman Badie (seven carries, 24 yards) and Josh Rounds (six carries, 48 yards). Regardless of who gets the ball and how many times, Tulane needs to run effectively to keep Memphis’ lethal offense off the field.
Tulane’s four November opponents have a combined record of 9-21, but what will the Wave’s mental state be by then? … Redwine, a fifth-year senior, had seven tackles vs. Navy. His previous career high was four. … Memphis is Tulane’s third ranked opponent. The last time the Wave faced three ranked teams was 1999. … Quarterback Tanner Lee’s completion percentage of .710 was his highest for any game when he threw at least 10 times.