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Houston Cougars wide receiver Linell Bonner can't make the catch in front of Tulane safety Roderic Teamer late in the game Saturday at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans.

Advocate photo by A.J. SISCO

1. WHAT WE LEARNED

Tulane was good enough and poised enough to get the breakthrough win second-year coach Willie Fritz needed to prove his program was on the rise. The Green Wave played well in every phase of the game to beat the Cougars for by far their best conference victory in Fritz’s tenure, keeping bowl hopes alive. The offense was balanced, with quarterback Jonathan Banks making big plays as a runner and a passer. The defense came up huge with two fourth-down stops and Parry Nickerson’s interception in the end zone. Punter Zach Block rebounded from a 14-yard shank to flip the field with three straight boomers. It wasn’t just that Tulane won. This is what a good team looks like when it wins.

2. TRENDING NOW

Banks and wide receiver Terren Encalade as difference-makers. For all the talk about systems and plans, it takes playmakers to beat talented opponents like Houston. Encalade, who had a career-best 186 yards on eight receptions, converted a first down into a massive 64-yard TD with 6:13 left with a sweet cut right before turning on the jets after catching the ball at the Houston 46. If he had been tackled there, there’s no telling if Tulane would have scored a touchdown. Banks scrambled for key first downs on two of the Wave’s scoring drives and was accurate on his throws, providing the dual threat that makes the Fritz offense work.

3. FINAL THOUGHTS

Those screams you heard at the end of the Cincinnati game two weeks ago were fans injuring their legs jumping off the Fritz bandwagon at the same time. It is too soon for them to take the casts off yet, but with some assistance, they can climb back aboard. Yes, the loss to the Bearcats was bad all the way around, but it never should have wiped away Fritz’s track record. The man has won everywhere he has coached and been better than his predecessors or successors at each stop (see 1-9 Georgia Southern). He inherited a program with a losing mentality and will give the Wave a chance to win sooner rather than later — maybe even as early as next week as Tulane fights for bowl eligibility at SMU.

Follow Guerry Smith on Twitter, @guersmith