Tulane plays at defending ACC Coastal Division champion Duke (3-0), which has won 11 of its past 13 games under coach David Cutcliffe and has dispatched Elon, Troy and Kansas by the combined score of 127-33. The last time it traveled to Durham, North Carolina, Tulane was coming off a 49-10 victory at UAB in September of 2011. The Green Wave has not won a game outside of Louisiana since then, dropping 15 in a row in a streak that started with a 48-27 loss to the Blue Devils. It’s hard to get a read on how good Duke is, though, because its victims are a combined 1-6. Troy even lost at home to Abilene Christian on Saturday. The Blue Devils are balanced, averaging 262.7 rushing yards and 247.3 passing yards. Quarterback Anthony Boone has thrown seven TD passes with zero interceptions.
The Wave defense showed up in a 35-20 win against Southeastern Louisiana that was more dominant than the score indicated. Shutting down dual-threat quarterback Bryan Bennett from the start, Tulane took a 28-3 halftime lead before surviving some shaky moments in the second half. SLU had 21 yards of offense in the first quarter and 84 in the first half as the Tulane defensive front disrupted everything the Lions tried to do out of their read option. Wave quarterback Tanner Lee was hit or miss, but he made more big plays than mistakes while tossing three touchdown passes. The second half was sloppy, though. Aside from a pretty 74-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Xavier Rush, the offense produced no points, and the defense relaxed a bit.
Linebacker Nico Marley. Relatively quiet as the defense struggled in the first two weeks, the diminutive SI.com video feature subject made plays all over the field. He had two tackles for loss, a sack and an interception, setting the tone for his big night with a bone-jarring tackle on the opening play. When he missed a few downs with an injury in the third quarter, SLU immediately hit back-to-back passes for 19 and 42 yards to set up its first touchdown.
“Tanner Lee was shooting BBs early. We hit him a bunch, we got pressure and got to him, but credit to him, he didn’t get rattled. He’s a stud.”
— Southeastern coach Ron Roberts
Keep an eye on
Defensive tackle Tanzel Smart, a product of Scotlandville High in Baton Rouge. His numbers (two tackles) were pedestrian, but his performance wasn’t. Roberts said he knew from watching video that his guys could not handle Smart, who was every bit as disruptive as he feared. Smart pretty much blew up the read option, forcing Bennett to try to beat Tulane with his arm. He was not up to the task against a talented secondary. Smart needs to play at the same level to slow Duke’s prolific running game.
Lee’s eight touchdown passes through three games are three fewer than the tandem of Nick Montana and Devin Powell combined for in the last nine games a year ago. … With Tulane and SLU combining for 257 penalty yards, coach Curtis Johnson probably had flashbacks to his days as a University of Miami assistant. … Tulane has been outscored 55-17 in the second half, while Duke has outscored its opponents 55-10 after halftime.