1. What we learned
That fairy-tale endings usually don’t come true. Former walk-on quarterback Jordy Joseph was majestic for three-and-a-half quarters, scrambling for first downs, buying time to find open receivers and putting the ball right on the money time and time again as he had one of Tulane’s best passing performances of the past three years. He did everything right until he threw an interception Tulsa returned for a touchdown past the midpoint of the fourth quarter. Then, after making some more plays on a potential game-winning drive, he made another mistake, and that one turned into a pick-six, too. A win almost certainly would not have saved coach Curtis Johnson’s job, but it sure would have been a feel-good performance for Joseph.
2. Trending now
A coaching search. Johnson said he had not been informed this was his last game when he talked after the loss, but it’s a near certainty. Tulane’s success on offense against Tulsa —helped by the fact the Golden Hurricane were fourth-to-last nationally in total defense — came after four years of issues moving the ball. Johnson stopped Tulane’s 10-year streak of losing records by getting the Wave to the New Orleans Bowl in 2013, but the Wave was not competitive in the American Athletic Conference the past two years, winning only three league games out of 16. It also lost six times by 28 or more points this year, a school record. Johnson, who is all class, deserved to go out with a win, but life doesn’t work that way.
3. Final thoughts
Tulane could be pretty good next year. The defense, which played well at times this season, returns seven starters, including terrific tackle Tanzel Smart. The offense, despite having horrible numbers, has playmakers at running back in Dontrell Hilliard and Sherman Badie, a talented quarterback with two years of starting experience in Tanner Lee and an above-average wide receiver in Teddy Veal, who figures to be better as a junior. If the offensive line woes get fixed, this team should be vastly improved on that side of the ball, and the nonconference schedule eases up. All in all, it’s not a bad situation for a new coach to inherit.