Taking care of the football exceedingly well has not translated into victories for Tulane this year, putting the Green Wave in a class almost by itself.
Entering Saturday night’s game at East Carolina (2-7, 1-4 American Athletic Conference), Tulane (3-6, 1-4) has committed six turnovers, losing three fumbles and throwing three interceptions. Only undefeated, top-ranked Alabama has fewer giveaways with five.
The Crimson Tide is the norm and Tulane is the exception. Of the 20 teams that have turned the ball over the fewest times, 17 are bowl eligible already and 18 are above. 500. The combined record of the 19 besides the Wave is 126-46 for a winning percentage of .733.
Tulane’s winning percentage is .333.
Vanderbilt, the other sub.-500 team on the list, is 4-5.
With 13 takeaways, Tulane is plus-7 in turnover differential. Of the 20 best teams in that category, the Wave and Texas Tech, which also is plus-7, are the only ones below .500. The Red Raiders are 4-5.
No other team with anything close to Tulane’s turnover totals is 3-6.
"It is unusual,” coach Willie Fritz said. “Obviously we'd like for that to be something that's indicative of winning. We need to keep plugging away. We're doing a good job with ball security. We need to get a few more takeaways. That's something we emphasize. We should be good at it.”
Senior linebacker Rae Juan Marbley, Tulane’s leading tackler with 68, returned to practice Thursday morning after welcoming his baby daughter into the world Wednesday.
Marbley’s wife gave birth to Isla Rae Marbley, and Marbley, a product of Destrehan High, tweeted it was the greatest day of his life.
He missed Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices after his wife went into labor.
“We're just happy for him and his wife,” Fritz said. “I've been through it three times, and the good thing about it is he's always tuned in. Him missing a couple of practices isn't like some other guys missing a couple of practices.”
Hilliard in holding pattern
Dontrell Hilliard was on pace to become Tulane’s fifth 1,000-yard runner a year ago before injuries slowed him down, limiting him to 35 yards in his last two games before he missed the finale against Connecticut entirely.
He is even closer this season with 808 yards through nine games, but only 107 of them have come in the past two weeks, when he has averaged 2.9 yards per attempt.
“There have been a couple of times when we had some cuts that he didn’t quite get,” Fritz said. “It’s all tied in together. (The issue) is the tight end, the other back and the offensive line.”
Hilliard needs to average 64 yards in the next three games to reach 1,000, joining Matt Forte, Mewelde Moore, Andre Anderson and Eddie Price in the Wave record book.
The temperature for the 6 p.m. Central time kickoff in Greenville, North Carolina, could be in the upper 30s, making it the coldest game Tulane has played a while. The forecast is for clear skies all day, with a low in the high 20s.
After unseasonably warm weather to start November, the Wave’s Thursday morning practice took place in cooler conditions.
"There's not a lot you can do (to prepare),” Fritz said. "Maybe it was good that when we came out here it was a little chilly this morning.”
Center Junior Diaz, a Miami native, did not appear too worried about the potential for cold.
“I don’t think it really affects us,” he said. “As long as the equipment people bring some sweaters, we should be good.”
Fritz said senior defensive end Quinlan Carroll, who sat out the Cincinnati game with an unspecified injury, will be available against East Carolina. Carroll started seven of the first eight games, making 18 tackles. … Redshirt sophomore John Washington has moved back to defensive tackle to shore up the depth there. Fritz moved him to offensive guard during the 2016 season and said he had the potential to be a starter, but he has played in only two games this season.