Tulane has an open date before facing UCF on Oct. 3 in its American Athletic Conference opener, and the Green Wave might be favored in that game. The reeling Knights (0-3), two-time defending AAC champions, have lost at home to Florida International and Furman this year and play at South Carolina on Saturday. That’s an incredible descent for George O’Leary, the winning coach in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago. As horrible as Tulane was in its first two games against Duke and Georgia Tech, a victory against UCF would revitalize the season. Coach Curtis Johnson said the Wave would practice Tuesday and Wednesday before getting a three-day break.
Tulane outclassed Football Championship Subdivision opponent Maine, winning 38-7 in a confidence-building, breakout performance from an offense that had been moribund since an early November upset of Houston in 2014. Don’t discount the significance of executing well against an inferior team. Ask UCF, which failed miserably against Furman, or Auburn, which needed overtime to get past Jacksonville State on Sept. 12. Quarterback Tanner Lee was sharp. Running backs Sherman Badie and Dontrell Hilliard were explosive. And the defense, which looked unprepared as Maine cruised to a touchdown on its opening series, shut out the Black Bears the rest of the way.
“I just wanted them to have some type of success to catapult them into the rest of the season, because we haven’t really had much success recently.”
Badie. After getting only five carries through two games and producing next to nothing, Tulane’s leading rusher in 2014 did not sulk or demand a bigger role. Instead, he produced when called upon, making the fourth run of more than 50 yards in his short career and adding a 51-yard reception. The final tally: 11 touches, 189 yards. That’s Badie at his best. He won’t always be the featured guy in a loaded backfield, but he is a breakaway threat every time he gets the ball.
Keep an eye on
Backup linebacker Zachery Harris and backup cornerback Dedrick Shy. Yes, it was Maine, but Tulane did not have any drop-off when the starters left in the second half. Johnson said the reserves tackled better than the first-team guys. Harris, a sophomore from Holy Cross, made a team-high seven tackles, pushing for more playing time. Shy, a true freshman from Warren Easton, returned his first career interception 33 yards. Depth was a concern entering the year, and that duo provided it against Maine.
Tulane converted 10 of 17 third downs while limiting Maine to 3 of 15 on third downs. In the first two games, the Wave converted 8 of 29 third downs while allowing 16 of 28. … Kicker Andrew DiRocco is 2 for 2 on field goals. Last year, he missed four of his first five and did not make his second one until the sixth game. … Lee has thrown two interceptions through three games after tossing six at the same stage last year. … Tulane has forced two or more turnovers in 24 of 28 games dating to the start of 2013.