Cramping issues put a severe crimp in Tulane’s plan to upset Georgia Tech on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Yulman Stadium, but the Green Wave appeared unconcerned about any long-term problems.
Defensive end Royce LaFrance, one of three players who needed treatment during the Yellow Jackets’ touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter, blamed his game-day preparation.
“It was real hot,” he said. “I can do better to avoid it by just getting hydrated more. I just have to drink more water before the game.”
Defensive tackle Corey Redwine and cornerback Lorenzo Doss also had to head to the sideline during that 12-play, 76-yard drive, and none of them was on the field when the Yellow Jackets scored. It was Tulane’s first outdoor home game in September since 2003 (against Northwestern State at Tad Gormley Stadium), and the temperature reached a high of 91 degrees for the 3 p.m. kickoff.
Trailing 21-14 in the second quarter, Georgia Tech scored 24 unanswered points to win going away 38-21. Still, Tulane coach Curtis Johnson credited the Yellow Jackets rather than lamenting the Green Wave’s lack of conditioning.
Tulane practiced primarily at the Saints indoor facility during preseason camp. Its outdoor practices at Newman School and Gormley almost all were in the morning rather than the intense heat of the afternoon.
“I don’t think we wore down,” Johnson said. “We just made some mistakes that got us backed up. We were fresh going out and, even at the end of the game, I thought our guys were good.”
Georgia Tech did not appear to have the same issues with cramping as Tulane’s players despite being on the sideline exposed to the sun. In an accommodation to the heat, the Green Wave will stand on the shadier west side of the field for day games and the east side for night games.
“The conditioning was OK,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “It was hot as hell out there. I bet you that it was 110 or 115 (degrees) on the turf. The first half was brutal.”
Said quarterback Justin Thomas: “We get this every day in Atlanta.”
Curtis Johnson even said the early departures for Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee and running back Sherman Badie were heat-related. But the Wave’s bigger issue, he said, was youth.
Four defensive starters arrived on campus in 2013. Two more heavy contributors — linebacker Rae Juan Marbley and defensive tackle Sean Wilson — are true freshmen.
On offense, true freshmen accounted for seven of Tulane’s 17 receptions and 58 of its 96 rushing yards.
“For a bunch of these kids, they are playing their second game in their college careers,” Johnson said. “We made some mental mistakes and did some little things wrong that we have to clean up.”
LaFrance was not buying inexperience as an excuse. Redshirt freshman William Townsend made eight tackles, and another redshirt freshman, Eric Thomas, forced a Thomas fumble on the game’s opening play.
“We play a lot of young guys, but I feel like they are way more mature as far as football than we were when we came in,” said LaFrance, a junior. “I think they can go in there and play every time against any competition. I’ve got a lot of confidence in those freshmen.”
Paul Johnson appeared less impressed with Tulane’s potential. Although the weather was hot, the 17-point victory left him a little icy.
“This is not the standard that I want to play at,” he said. “This is not acceptable. We can play better than this.”