After a brief respite, Tulane killed itself with kicking errors in its 41-13 loss to 16th-ranked Memphis on Saturday night.
The issues started when kicker Andrew DiRocco’s extra point was blocked after the Green Wave’s first touchdown.
With the Wave leading 13-10 in the second quarter, John Leglue sailed a long snap well over punter Peter Picerelli’s head, forcing him to fall on it for a safety.
After Memphis went ahead 25-13 in the second half, Rickey Preston muffed the kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone, and the ball rolled out to the 1, where Josh Rounds fell on it. Seconds later, quarterback Jordy Joseph was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, handing another safety to the Tigers.
The problems were nothing new.
Earlier this year, Picerelli and fellow punter Zach Block dropped the ball just before they tried to kick it. Former long snapper Michael Lizanich dribbled a snap against Duke and sent one over Picerelli’s head for a safety against Georgia Tech.
Tulane entered the Memphis game ranked 115th out of 127 FBS teams in kickoff returns, 113th in punt returns and 125th in punting.
Joseph, the fifth-year senior quarterback, waited forever until his first start.
He made up for the lost time quickly.
Facing 16th-ranked Memphis, he completed his first five passes as Tulane scored touchdowns on its first two series to go ahead 13-0 and stun the crowd at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
His first attempt was a safe screen pass that picked up 2 yards and a first down, but he began taking chances after that one, completing a 14-yarder to running back Dontrell Hilliard to convert a third-and-9, connecting with tight end Kendall Ardoin for 11 yards and getting a pass interference call on a floater to wide receiver Devon Breaux in the end zone.
Joseph also ran 17 yards for a first down on the opening drive — a mammoth 17-play, 80-yard effort that consumed 11:13.
The next time Tulane had the ball, Joseph hit wideout Teddy Veal on a deep out for 35 yards, setting up another touchdown as he started 5-for-5.
Until Tulane played Houston two weeks ago, Joseph’s only pass attempt of his career went for a 1-yard gain. He threw his first career scoring pass in the final minute against Navy last Saturday.
His night did not end as well as it started. Tulane failed to score after its first two series, and he finished 10 of 24 for 131 yards.
Nice night for Hilliard
Before Saturday, no Tulane running back had more than 14 carries in a game or more than 93 yards against an FBS opponent this season.
Hilliard, a sophomore, bested both totals against Memphis, rushing 17 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a reception for 14 yards. He also had two catches for 33 yards.
If Ole Miss could not hold on to an early 14-0 lead against Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Tulane had no shot.
On Oct. 17, the Tigers spotted the Rebels two early touchdowns before scoring 31 straight points on their way to a 37-24 victory.
This time, Tulane jumped out to a 13-0 advantage before Memphis scored 41 consecutive points.
Tulane lost its 40th consecutive game against a ranked team. ... Left guard Colton Hanson had two huge blocks on key runs, springing Hilliard for a 43-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 22-yard run a little later. .. Tulane has lost nine in a row to Memphis, with eight of the defeats coming by at least two touchdowns.