Hours before Hurricane Nate hit the Gulf Coast, Tulane blew Tulsa right out of Yulman Stadium in a sure sign of progress under second-year coach Willie Fritz.
After moving up the kickoff five hours to 10 a.m. to keep everyone out of harm’s way, the Green Wave scored touchdowns all seven times it had the ball in the first half and threatened to break a slew of school records before settling for a 62-28 rout.
It's the second-most points Tulane has scored in any conference game, behind the 65 scored by Tommy Bowden's team against Louisville in 1997.
“I’m very happy with our administration and everybody involved in game day operations to be able to play this game,” said Fritz, who notched his 200th career victory. “It takes a lot of people to coordinate that, and we came out of the box and played extremely hard and well.”
Never mind the early start. This one was like no other game in recent memory as Tulane (3-2, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) reversed a history of lopsided losses in the series, doing to Tulsa (1-5, 0-2) exactly what Tulsa had done to it in their Conference USA days. Just last year, the Golden Hurricane led the Wave 31-7 at the half of a 50-27 victory, Tulsa's 11th win in 12 meetings since 2005.
Tulane exacted its revenge with some mind-boggling numbers. The Wave rolled up 261 yards in the first quarter alone and had 435 yards and 20 first downs at halftime, putting it on pace to smash school records of 722 yards against Mississippi College in 1937 and 35 first downs against Army in 2006.
The Wave finished with 653 yards and 31 first downs after a relaxing second half with the game long since been decided.
“It's fun to have a dominant team,” defensive tackle Sean Wilson said. “Our offense can score points with anybody, and we can stop anybody as a defense.”
Quarterback Jonathan Banks set the tone with a 50-yard keeper on Tulane’s first offensive snap that brought the Wave to the 2-yard line.
The rest came just as easily. Dontrell Hilliard scored four times and rushed for a career-high 175 yards on 19 carries, and five players rushed for at least one touchdown, the most for Tulane in any game dating to at least the 1980s.
Tulsa, which entered dead last in the NCAA in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and yards per play allowed, showed exactly why it had accumulated that terrible three-pack.
Hilliard ran untouched through a gigantic hole for a 23-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead at the 8:24 mark of the first quarter.
"It was fun, but at the same time I've got to give thanks to my receivers and the O-line for doing a great job allowing me to get in the holes,” Hilliard said. “They were creating the space that I needed to do what I can do.”
On the Wave’s next snap, wide receiver Terren Encalade out-jumped cornerback Keidrien Wadley for a long pass and cruised into the end zone for a 59-yard score and a 21-0 lead with 7:45 left.
Freshman Stephon Huderson joined the parade with his first career touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Next came Darius Bradwell, who broke a tackle on a 8-yard score.
When Tulsa finally forced a fourth down in the second quarter, Tulane went for it and Hilliard raced right up the middle with zero resistance for a 17-yard touchdown and a 42-7 advantage.
Banks provided the capper with a pair of sweet cuts that left defenders grasping at air on a 13-yard scoring run with five seconds left in the half. He did not need to put up huge numbers, but coming off a pulsating last-minute touchdown drive to beat Army two weeks ago, Banks threw for 163 yards and rushed for 93 on 10 carries.
“He had a look in his eye before the game that he was ready to go, and he played extremely well,” Fritz said. “He's a tough competitor. He enjoys it, and he saw how this thing can work.”
The only similarity between the teams happened on kicks. After Tulsa’s Redford Jones banged a 48-yard field goal into the left upright, extending the Golden Hurricane’s misery, Tulane’s Merek Glover hit the same upright on a missed extra point.
No matter. The Wave already led 48-7.
The only other negatives for Tulane: three penalties for personal fouls and defensive backs letting multiple receivers get behind them for big plays when the game was out of hand.
Tulsa did almost nothing else right. Quarterback Chad President, far off target on a series of deep balls, got pulled after Tulane freshman Chase Kuerschen intercepted an underthrow down the sideline. President’s replacement, Luke Skipper, lived up to his name with a few bounce passes while also dropping a shotgun snap and fumbling it forward to Tulane defensive end Ade Aruna.
The Golden Hurricane, ranked ninth nationally in rushing, picked up just 31 yards on nine carries in the first half while being forced out of its regular plan by the ever-expanding deficit.
Tulane played its fifth turnover-free game in its past six contests. The Wave has only two all season, tied for the third-lowest in the nation.
Past Wave teams have flopped coming off a huge victories, but this one was galvanized by its dramatic win against Army. The Wave, 4-21 in its first 25 AAC games, looked like a totally different team against Tulsa as Fritz tries to establish a winning culture.
"We just came out and played hard,” Fritz said. “We played well. They ought to get excited about this. Tulsa's kind of had their way with Tulane over the last 13 years.”