Tulane’s victory at Massachusetts on Saturday was a long time coming.
Actually, history indicates it was a very long time.
The Green Wave (3-2), which fell behind 14 points in the first four minutes before rallying to win 31-24, had not overcome a deficit larger than 10 points to win since the turn of the century.
In his fifth game, first-year coach Willie Fritz doubled the largest rally from the four-year Curtis Johnson era.
The Wave’s largest comeback in former coach Bob Toledo’s five-year tenure was 10 points in a 45-38 overtime victory against UTEP in 2009. That matched the largest rally under Chris Scelfo, who coached from 1999-2006.
“I’m just proud of the guys,” Fritz said. “They kept fighting back.”
Junior safety Jarrod Franklin came up with two turnovers for Tulane, matching his career total through 29 games.
The first one was spectacular. With the Wave trailing 14-10 in the second quarter, he dove to catch a deflected pass that bounced off the leg of cornerback Donnie Lewis while Lewis was on the ground, showing good anticipation and hands.
The second one came on UMass’ opening possession of the second half when defensive tackle Tanzel Smart stripped quarterback Andrew Ford. The ball rolled more than 10 yards downfield before Franklin arrived to fall on it.
The plays marked Franklin's second career interception and fumble recovery.
Tulane, which was tied for ninth nationally in turnover differential entering the contest at plus-7, won the turnover battle for the fourth consecutive game, 2-1.
Tulane rolled up 280 yards rushing Saturday, using a three-headed approach in the backfield.
Starter Dontrell Hilliard had 100 yards on 22 carries for his fourth career 100-yard game and second this seasons. He also scored the Wave’s first touchdown.
Josh Rounds added 77 yards on 16 attempts, including a 10-yard run for the Wave’s final touchdown.
Lazedrick Thompson picked up 54 yards on eight carries, and he scored from 19 yards out in the third quarter.
Fritz knew from the start of the spring he had good running backs. The key to Saturday’s success was better blocking.
“Our offensive line has started to grow up,” he said. “There were only four or five occasions today when we didn’t get bodies on people.”
Sophomore defensive end Peter Woullard started his second consecutive game for Tulane and made three tackles. He had an opportunity for an interception and touchdown but couldn't hold on. Woullard had gotten in the way of a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage. ... Linebacker Zachery Harrris led the Wave with a career-high eight tackles, three more than his previous best. ... Freshman wide receiver Chris Johnson, who dropped what would have been a winning touchdown pass in overtime against UL-Lafayette, had his first career catch on a 18-yarder that set up Tulane’s final touchdown against UMass. ... The Wave had a 20-play, 85-yard drive for a field goal in the first half that ate up 8:32 on the clock, contributing to a massive 40:30-19:30 advantage in time of possession.