MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For two drives, Tulane looked like a completely rejuvenated team.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Jordy Joseph, in his first career start, led Tulane on an 11-minute opening touchdown drive to give the Green Wave the lead against No. 16-ranked Memphis.
On the next series, running back Dontrell Hilliard scamped for a 43-yard touchdown to give the Green Wave a two-score lead.
Ultimately, the out-of-body experience on Halloween proved to be only temporary for the Green Wave. The streaking Tigers went on to score 41 unanswered points and dispatched the Green Wave 41-13 on Saturday night at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
After the first two successful drives, many of the same issues that have plagued Tulane all season long resurfaced in Memphis — like special-teams woes, for instance.
Punter Peter Picerelli had a snap fly over his head with 3:48 remaining in the first half, forcing him to chase it down in the end zone and take the safety.
Late in the third quarter, kick returner Rickey Preston bobbled a touchback out of the end zone; the Green Wave fell on the live ball at its own 5-yard line.
One play later, Joseph was called for intentional grounding when he threw the ball away in the end zone, resulting in a safety.
Tulane’s offensive play spoiled the effort of its defense, which initially did a respectable job against the high-octane Memphis offense in the first half.
The Green Wave (2-6, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) held the Tigers, who scored 66 points last week against Tulsa, to just one touchdown in the first half.
As good as Tulane’s defense had played, though, the Greenies simply didn’t get enough help from their offense. Once things settled down, Joseph looked more like a quarterback making his first college start and less like one suited to lead his team to what would’ve been one of the biggest upsets in college football this season.
Joseph, who was filling in for the injured Tanner Lee, finished 10-of-24 for 131 yards.
Without a consistent offensive effort, Tulane’s defense was ultimately asked to do too much against one of the best offensive attacks in the nation.
Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch threw for 343 yards and a touchdown; his one score the result of a screen pass to running back Jamarcus Henderson, who dashed 43 yards untouched to the end zone.
One week after holding Navy, the nation’s third-ranked rushing attack, to 122 yards, the Green Wave was gashed Saturday night by the Tigers’ litany of running backs. No player had more than 59 yards, but the Tigers (8-0, 4-0) managed 223 yards and three scores on the ground against the Green Wave, all the same.
However few, there were moments the Green Wave showed they could compete — and even hold a lead — against top-flight competition in the AAC. But as has been the case for most of the year, the lack of offensive firepower and special teams deficiencies repeatedly came back to haunt the Wave on Saturday night in Memphis.
Tulane return to New Orleans next weekend to take on UConn at 3 p.m. in Yulman Stadium.