Tulane is calling for a “White Out” for Saturday night’s football game against Maine, asking fans to show up wearing white.
Actually, the Green Wave would like to white out just about everything that has happened in the first two weeks of the season.
Back-to-back blowout losses to Duke and Georgia Tech (combined score: 102-17) have left the Wave with a multitude of problems to fix and in desperate need of a feel-good performance against the Black Bears. With an open date to follow, Tulane has two weeks to figure out how to turn around the season before its American Athletic Conference opener versus Central Florida.
“The number one thing is getting confidence,” coach Curtis Johnson said. “These young men need to have something good happen to them. They’re willing to do whatever they need to do, but they just don’t have the confidence they need. We have to play our best ball right now and begin to move in an upward fashion.”
The Wave bottomed out in Saturday’s 65-10 shellacking at Georgia Tech. Safety Darion Monroe, a senior co-captain who had started every game in his career, was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules, depriving the team of its defensive signal caller. Tulane could not stop Georgia Tech’s option, could not move the ball consistently and committed a slew of special-teams gaffes that would have lost the game even without the offensive or defensive issues.
The list included punter Peter Picerelli dropping a perfect snap, another snap sailing over Picerelli’s head for a safety, a missed field goal, a 23-yard punt and allowing a 44-yard punt return. The nadir might have been when Tulane had nine players on the field as Georgia Tech backup quarterback Matthew Jordan raced 65 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter without being touched.
The Wave had just kicked off after making a field goal to cut the deficit to 51-10. A 10th player ran off right before them snap, and no one appeared to notice the problem.
“We were putting the young kids in and taking all our old kids out because I didn’t want anybody to get hurt,” Johnson said. “Two of those young kids were on the kickoff team and they just didn’t get on the field. They were waiting for somebody to tell them, but we told them before the kickoff. That’s on me. I’ll make sure that won’t ever happen again.”
With an energized Monroe back this week, practices have been energetic, exhibiting no sign of capitulation or infighting. On Thursday, the players whooped and hollered for an entire goal-line drill, with the defense celebrating every incomplete pass and the offense going crazy for a touchdown. Receivers coach Carter Sheridan ran into the end zone and jumped for a rump bump with wideout Larry Dace after the score.
At the end, every defensive player and coach had to perform push-ups.
“Coach CJ said he wanted a lot more energy at practice, so we have a lot more competition stuff to do,” Monroe said. “He wants us talking a little trash toward each other, and it’s working at practice. You can see the energy here.”
The next step is translating that energy into the game. Maine, a Football Championship Subdivision school, is coming off a bye after losing to Boston College 24-3 in its opener. The Black Bears are 2-13 against FBS teams since 1990, shocking Mississippi State in 2004 and beating Massachusetts in 2013 when the Minutemen were making the transition from the FCS.
Maine trailed Boston College 10-3 at the start of the fourth quarter but never generated any offense, finishing with 91 yards and eight first downs. The Black Bears were without starting running back Nigel Beckford, who will play against Tulane after serving a one-game suspension for violating the university’s student-athlete code of conduct.
The defense performed well before wearing down, giving up two late touchdowns but limiting the Golden Eagles to about 200 yards through three quarters.
Tulane’s offense has struggled. The Wave’s 10 points against Georgia Tech were its most in five games dating to last season, with quarterback Tanner Lee accounting for the only two touchdowns of the year on heaves that receiver Devon Breaux converted into scores.
“We’ve played two great teams,” Lee said. “We’ve had glimpses of positive games. We just have to put drives together. We have the whole season ahead of us, and all of our goals are still there, so we still feel good.”
That’s the party line, from Breaux to running back Lazedrick Thompson to linebacker Eric Thomas to nickel back Jarrod Franklin.
They are trying to block out the score of the past two games and focus on what they can control the rest of the way.
“It’s not a two-game season,” Franklin said. “We are starting off fresh. It’s like the season is just beginning.”
At the very least, Johnson liked what he saw in practice this week.
“We’ve had good emotion,” he said. “I know a lot of people are leaving us for dead, but the one thing we do have is emotion. We have hustle, we are running around and we are competitive, and as long as we do that, we’ll be fine.”
NOTES: Defensive tackle Sean Wilson (sprained ankle) will miss his second consecutive game, and receiver Terren Encalade (sprained shoulder) has been ruled out, too. Other than them, all of the starters will be the same as in the opener against Duke. … Johnson held receiver Teddy Veal (leg injury) out of the last hour of practice Thursday but said he would play Saturday.