Losses lead to disappointment. Blowout losses result in frustration, anger and tantrums.
Tulane’s football team knows all too well about the latter this season, having suffered through four losses by 30 or more points and dealing with eruptions from the sideline and on the field along the way.
During the Green Wave’s 42-7 loss to undefeated Houston last Friday, Tulane (2-4) not only got flagged for a litany of unnecessary penalties, it also displayed an occasionally chaotic sideline as players and coaches were seen yelling in various directions.
“It’s a natural part of the game, but we have to stop it,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. “We have to take our anger and frustration and channel it into playing well. That’s what I believe in. Half of the people say it’s healthy, the other half say it’s not.
“I don’t believe in chastising player-to-player. I think you can say something to a player and then you have to move on, because the next play is coming no matter what you do. The next series is coming. The next down is coming.”
Now, as the Green Waves travel to Navy (4-1), for a noon kickoff at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday, the topic of discipline is as prominent as Tulane’s scuffling offensive and defensive production.
The Wave’s four 30-point losses are already tied for the single-season record for the program, which dates to 1893 — and the second half of the season hasn’t even begun. There’s been ample consternation about staying under control in adverse circumstances.
Johnson said he’s already made a few changes, mostly on the defensive line, to account for some of the penalties and unmanageable behavior. He’s also planning to take away playing time from anyone who acts out or draws unnecessary penalties, saying it’s the best disciplinary tool at his disposal.
“We cut (defensive end) Ade Aruna’s snaps back last week because of those penalties (in a 49-10 loss to Temple), and then you look at (defensive tackle) Tanzel Smart — and I hate to sit him, but I warned him,” Johnson said. “(Defensive end) Royce LaFrance can’t do some of the things that he’s done, as well as (defensive tackle) Eldrick Washington.
“No one should be talking to the officials. I’m the only one who can talk to them. Our coaches don’t even do that. So now those guys and some of the defensive linemen just can’t be doing the things that they are doing. We have got to get that nipped in the bud.”
Even senior safety Darion Monroe said he’s had to pull players aside in the midst of a game, just to make sure everyone understands the best way to move forward — even when the heat of the moment can exacerbate a reaction.
“During a game, you just have to tell a player that’s not what we are about,” Monroe said. “After the game, you come at them a different way. I told Tanzel, because he is my roommate, that he’s one of the leaders on the team and you can’t have those moments like that. You have to stop guys from getting those penalties; you have to lead by example.”
With Navy employing its workmanlike triple-option offense, it is able to take advantage of even the smallest errors, leaving no room for Tulane to hurt itself because of infighting or a lack of focus. To avoid another lopsided defeat, the Green Wave must avoid the kinds of mistakes that have led to lopsided scores.
The last time it faced a similar attack, Georgia Tech rattled off a staggering 439 rushing yards in 65-10 win Sept. 12.
“We just have to be disciplined,” Monroe said. “We have to know our assignments and stay on it every play and keep playing. It’s not always easy but we can do it.”