ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After losing the competition for Tulane’s starting quarterback job, sophomore Johnathan Brantley looked anything but lost when he had to replace injured junior-college transfer Jonathan Banks in the second quarter Saturday at Navy.
Brantley ripped off a 42-yard gain on an option the first time he kept the ball, setting up his first career touchdown one play later. He finished the game as the Green Wave’s leading rusher with 73 yards on nine attempts, but whether he will get to build on that performance was unclear after Tulane’s 23-21 loss.
Coach Willie Fritz was not certain about the status of Banks, who returned to the sideline in street clothes with an apparent rib injury during the second half.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure, but he’s going to be OK,” Fritz said.
Tulane might be OK with Brantley, who is coming off a rough freshman year when he started twice but was bothered by mononucleosis that caused significant weight loss and a dead arm. He is not as confident a passer as Banks, but he played well enough to lead the Wave to its only two offensive touchdowns.
On the second one, he rushed twice for 20 yards and completed two passes for 29 yards as Tulane scored on a 16-play drive that started from its 17. He finished 5 of 8 for 58 yards in the air.
“Johnathan came out and really played well,” Fritz said. “He really did a good job coming in there in a tough situation and did a lot of good things.”
Brantley, who always has been his harshest critic, felt there were not enough of them. He particularly was upset about his decision on Tulane’s last offensive play: a fourth-and-5 pass from the Navy 32 that was batted down by linebacker D.J. Palmore.
“That’s all on me,” Brantley said. “It was a bad read. I was trying to get it to (wide receiver Terren) Encalade. I thought he was blitzing, and he was dropping. I wanted one more chance. It was just frustrating not to have the ball in my hands at the end with a chance to win for my team.”
Banks, who had a promising debut against Grambling last Saturday, was hurt when he was tackled on a keeper. He remained on the ground for a while as trainers treated him before assisting him off the field.
“I was surprised, but I have to be ready,” Brantley said. “That’s my job as a backup, to step in if he goes down. The long run helped me get a comfort level.”
Tulane, a 13-point underdog to Navy, will be a much bigger underdog next Saturday at Oklahoma. Even if it's Brantley starting, though, the Wave appears confident it won’t miss what Banks provides.
“(Brantley is) capable of doing those things,” linebacker Rae Juan Marbley said. “He’s a very smart guy. Sometimes I’ll go talk to him and pick his brain about what they are doing on offense. We can win with him. We just have to make sure everyone is pointing in the right direction.”