Tulane running back Dontrell Hilliard admitted the Hurricane Nate-forced 10 a.m. kickoff Saturday was the earliest start he had experienced since his peewee football days.
He added that morning shifts did not bother him one bit, as indicated clearly by his career-high 175 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries in the Green Wave’s 62-28 shellacking of Tulsa.
“We always like to play in the morning because that's when we practice,” he said. “We get kind of antsy when we play later in the day. We'd rather play when we practice.”
That was the team-wide refrain. Tulane scored 35 points before 11 a.m., the time the game was supposed to start before being moved up an extra hour on Friday night, and the Green Wave had cleared out the locker room long before the 3 p.m. original start time.
Tulsa appeared comatose at the beginning. For Tulane, which practices from 8:30 to 10:30 every morning, it was business as usual.
“Our guys are used to getting up at 5:30 every morning,” Fritz said. “We eat breakfast at 6. We get into meetings at 7 and we start practicing at 8:15, so this game time was about like period number 20 for practice. I told the guys last night you get to sleep in an extra half-hour. We'll get you up at 6 instead of 5:30."
While the Wave backs ran right past Tulsa defenders, the Golden Hurricane kept running into a wall. Tulane decided the outcome in the first half, outgaining Tulsa 435-128 before halftime.
No one had to change his body clock.
“That's normal,” defensive tackle Sean Wilson said. “I didn't feel a difference in the game. We could have played at 7. We could have played at 3. We were ready to go.”
Quarterback Jonathan Banks nearly scored on his first snap, racing 50 yards to the Tulsa 2 to set up the first of a series of easy touchdown drives.
"Yeah, I believe we were seven-for-seven in the first half and we had 49 points (actually 48),” he said. “It's always big to come out and not being able to see the punt team on the field.”
Tulane’s dominance was even bigger than the scoreboard indicated. The Green Wave held the ball for 43 minutes and 18 seconds to Tulsa’s 16:22, outrushed the nation’s ninth-ranked rushing team 488-139 and ran 83 plays to Tulsa’s 48. The Wave matched the Golden Hurricane’s total of 48 snaps in the first half alone.
Hilliard had room to run almost every time he touched the ball, and he made the most of that space.
“He just did a nice job of seeing creases and seams," Fritz said. "There was a play right before the half, we just ran the power and he hit it vertical. I know that sounds easy to do, but a lot of guys are looking to find stuff."
Even some of the plays Tulsa diagnosed properly turned out in Tulane's favor. Banks appeared ready to be sacked in the second quarter when defender wrapped him up with both arms, but he did not go down, scanned the field and found running back Darius Bradwell in the flat for a 6-yard gain.
"(Banks) is a strong guy," Fritz said. "He's 220 pounds and has great lifting numbers. He did a good job. He led us well today."
Fritz had a hard time finding fault with anything. The three long pass plays the Wave allowed were calculated gambles, something the coaches were willing to risk as they loaded up to stop the ground game.
"We played extremely well defensively in the first half against a very potent offense," Fritz said. "It was a good job in all three phases. I think almost everybody on our squad who was eligible to play played today, so I'm really excited about that."