A few firsts from Saturday’s inaugural game at Yulman Stadium:
First sack: Tulane’s Eric Thomas on Justin Thomas, resulting in a fumble recovery by Royce LaFrance and a subsequent Green Wave touchdown.
First score: Tanner Lee to Justyn Shackelford for a 12-yard touchdown pass.
First field goal: Georgia Tech’s Harrison Butker from 46 yards out on the final play of the first half to give the Yellow Jackets a 24-21 lead.
Tony Zenon knew right where to point.
The New Orleans native and Georgia Tech slot receiver, who left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, was looking for a family decked out in No. 9 jerseys on the north end zone of Yulman Stadium.
After his 19-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, he was able to spot them. When he punched in another from the 2-yard line in the third quarter, he had to turn around to find them.
“It felt so good to be back here and around family,” Zenon said. “A lot of them have never seen me play ball, and it was just a really good day for me. I appreciate my teammates getting me in the end zone a few times, and they told me they wanted to get me in there because it was my homecoming. That was cool.”
Zenon, a fifth-year senior, finished with a career-high 62 yards on eight carries. The two TDs matched his career totals.
A conference champion from the so-called Group of Five is guaranteed a place in one of the College Football Playoff’s access bowls (Cotton, Chick-fil-A, Peach or Fiesta).
But a week into the season, there’s not a team from any of those leagues, including the American, in either of the major top-25 polls.
In the end, it won’t matter what those polls say, because the same selection committee that picks the final four will pick what used to be referred to as a “BCS Buster.”
“That’s a perception problem, and we’re fighting it,” said AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco, who was in attendance Saturday. “We wish we had more access, because there are going to be a lot of good teams fighting for that spot.
“But nobody said it would be an easy road.”
The AAC went into the day with only one of its teams, Cincinnati, receiving votes in either poll. And because of a quirk in the schedule, the Bearcats haven’t played a game yet.
Only two other teams were still unbeaten heading into Saturday evening’s games — East Carolina, which was playing at South Carolina, and Memphis, which was at UCLA.
Before those games, the AAC was 1-5 against the Power Five.
“What we’ve got to do is schedule and win games against the power conferences,” Aresco said. “That’s always the best way to establish yourself, and we’re on our way to doing that.”
Less than a week after joining the team, Tulane kicker Trevor Simms earned his way into a lot of Green Wave photographs, booting the opening kickoff of Yulman Stadium for a touchback.
Simms, who came to Tulane as a member of the Green Wave baseball program via West Virginia, came to practice earlier this week wearing No. 36, which previously belonged to punt returner Devin Boutte.
He was brought in to shore up a struggling kicking situation, which turned to defensive end Ade Aruna last week to kick off. Aruna injured his groin midway through Tulane’s 38-31 loss to Tulsa, forcing Johnson to search for another leg.
Simms’ subsequent three kickoffs all went for touchbacks, as well.
Only LSU and Ole Miss have beaten Tulane more times than Georgia Tech. The series now stands at 36-13 in the Yellow Jackets’ favor.
Both teams are former members of the Southeastern Conference.