OK, Green Wave Nation. Admit it.
This one had you scared.
Southeastern may have been an FCS team, but the Lions were a good FCS team. North Dakota State good. “College GameDay” coming to Hammond good.
Meanwhile, Tulane stumbled its way though its first two games, turning winnable situations into defeats though untimely mistakes on the field and questionable decisions from the sidelines.
An 0-3 start that might have turned brand-new Yulman Stadium into the mausoleum on Poydras the Wave had occupied for much of the past 40 years.
But in a major confidence-builder — both for those wearing green jerseys Saturday night and those who showed up to cheer them on, Tulane showed the ability to rise to the occasion with a 35-20 victory.
This was a Tulane effort that featured an alert defense that rarely looked out of position against the Lions’ read-option attack, and an effective offense in the first half that sputtered in the second but got the one big play the Wave needed to give itself some cushion.
To be sure, SLU did the Wave some favors, mainly with a gaggle of penalties — 15 for 142 yards — that either took the Lions out of favorable offensive situations or put the Wave into them. The biggest: a blocking-below-the-waist that negated what would have been a 70-yard TD pass with 1:12 left.
SLU would have still been behind by a touchdown and out of timeouts. But strange things can happen.
Tulane tried to reciprocate in the flag department, drawing 12 for 115 yards.
But no matter.
When you’ve got a history like Tulane, you take ’em any way you can get ’em.
As a matter of fact, in all of its football history, which features 110 more defeats than victories, the Wave had never lost to an FCS game in 12 such matchups, five of them against the SLU. Since 2001, 10 of Tulane’s 51 victories have come against FCS foes.
Small wonder coach Curtis Johnson and athletic director Rick Dickson are of one accord when it comes to keeping an FCS team on the schedule every season. Obviously they’re not worried about poor strength of schedule keeping them out of the College Football Playoff.
Give major props to the Tulane defense for this one.
SLU came in averaging 42.5 points and 7.3 points per play, including 21.2 passing.
Regardless of the opposition, that’s a potent, dangerous offense, especially with quarterback Bryan Bennett at the helm.
But stalwarts like Nico Marley, Sam Scofield, Darion Monroe and Tyler Gilbert time and again thwarted the Lions.
SLU had only 177 yards through the first three quarters and finished with 271, 64 of them coming on its final possession which ended at the Tulane 6 with four seconds left.
Wave quarterback Tanner Lee continued to be hit-and-miss. He was 9-of-18 for 130 yards and two TDs.
But in the second, he had a pair of picks before connecting with Xavier Rush on a 74-yard pitch, catch and run that gave Tulane a three-touchdown lead.
All in all, it was a good night to enjoy Tulane’s first outdoor night game at home in 40 years. Even the folks who clustered in the suites and club area last week came out to enjoy the breeze and the action.
Undefeated Duke, 3-0 after clobbering Kansas 41-3 in Saturday, lies ahead next week.
But going there at 1-2 is a lot better than the alternative.