Nothing comes in small doses for Tulane’s football team.
When it’s going well, the Green Wave clicks on all cylinders — as it did during home wins over UCF and Maine — securing the victories before the fourth quarter even begins.
However, when momentum rolls the other way, Tulane has proven it’s hard to keep a skip from turning into a slide. In losses to Duke, Georgia Tech and Temple by a combined 151-24, Tulane simply couldn’t regroup when adversity hit it.
Whether it stems from turnovers, penalties or just a bad bounce, when misfortune strikes, the game turns.
At 8 p.m. Friday in Yulman Stadium, when Tulane hosts (2-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) No. 24 Houston (5-0, 2-0), Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson said his team will have to mature in a hurry and learn to play regardless of the momentum.
“To me, it’s a case where when you’re playing so many young players, the (seniors like safety Darion) Monroe and those guys can’t really get it back together,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing we have to do. It’s a must. There’s a time, hopefully in this game, that we get it so when you’re in that situation, you don’t flinch or worry about the scoreboard. You just keep going and going.”
That didn’t happen in last week’s 49-10 loss to Temple. A bizarre penalty called on running back Sherman Badie — as he was running on the sideline and was called for unnecessary roughness despite being tossed to the ground by a defender — changed the tenor of the game.
More than a mere 15-yard swing, it threw Tulane’s entire sideline into a funk from which it never recovered. Within eight minutes, Temple racked up 28 points to turn a competitive contest into yet another blowout.
“I don’t want to complain about the officiating, but that particular call took the wind out of our kids,” Johnson said. “This is a relatively young team with very little success, and now a call like that was just devastating for us. We may have lost, but not that bad.”
The American Athletic Conference recognized the penalty was not properly enforced and sent an explanation to Tulane about what should have been called instead. Multiple players commented on the one flag as a turning point in the game, even though Tulane already trailed 21-10 in the second half when it was assessed.
“Yeah, I’ve never seen it called on an offensive player,” Monroe said. “It just felt like every call was going against us, and we can’t control that. That’s in the officials’ hands. Sherman was just getting the guy off him, and the guy slung him down and he called the flag on Sherman. I’ve never seen that one, but it happens sometimes.”
What was more important to Monroe and Tulane’s coaching staff was that the Green Wave learns to bounce back from it and not let possessions slip away while playing in a daze.
It’s an area in which Tulane admittedly failed against Temple.
“It was hard because we have a lot of young guys and once they kept piling on points, heads went down,” Monroe said. “And the older guys on the team, we were trying to keep those heads up, but it kind of got out of hand at the end of the game.”
The Cougars enter Friday night averaging 46.4 points per game under new coach Tom Herman, meaning there’s a low likelihood the Green Wave can avoid similar adversity at Yulman Stadium.
But rather than focusing on the scoreboard, Tulane will need to focus on itself to stay competitive and have a shot to beat a ranked opponent for the first time since 1982.
“We just to stay within ourselves,” linebacker Nico Marley said. “And everything will be OK.”