Glen Cuiellette always believed it was a matter of time.
After enough practice repetitions, enough studying and enough in-game looks, Tulane’s quarterback felt the Green Wave passing game would eventually click.
While it’s far from a flawless product, Cuiellette’s prophecy is starting to take shape. After four regulation games of one-dimensional offense, Tulane has begun to find successes through the air, starting in overtime of a win over Louisiana-Lafayette and continuing through its 31-24 win at Massachusetts on Oct. 1.
“When you get more reps and get exposed to more things, it just starts flowing,” Cuiellette said. “You know the decision, and you watch film and it just becomes second nature to you. I don’t think I’m all the way there yet, but I’m getting there. I’m getting close to it. Things are moving slower for me, and I just want to make plays every week.”
The next test will show just how far Cuiellette has come. The Green Wave (3-2, 0-1 American) hosts Memphis at 7 pm. Friday in Yulman Stadium.
The Tigers (4-1, 1-0) come equipped with one of the nation’s most aggressive defenses, having forced 15 turnovers already this season, fourth-most nationally. Their 10 interceptions are of particular concern to Cuiellette, considering he’s already thrown a pair of picks in 68 total attempts.
Still, the blueprint for Tulane to promote its passing game is clear. Coach Willie Fritz repeatedly pointed to a lack of protection provided by the offensive line as the main culprit for Tulane’s failure, but he has lauded the linemen for the turnaround.
“I think we all just started clicking, and those reps started to pay off,” Cuiellette said. “We got in a rhythm with it, especially late against (UL-Lafayette), that’s when it started to turn, because we were completing balls and I had some time to throw.
“The offensive line has been doing a great job since then, and I never really noticed it, but coach would talk about it. But when you look at film now, you see that we really came a long way. I’m very proud of my line for doing that.”
Fritz also credited Cuiellette’s improvement in running the option for helping keep defenses honest, stemming the tide of heavy pass-rush situations.
Tulane ranks No. 16 nationally in rushing offense, averaging 246 yards per game, but the total yardage is less important than the amount of reasonable down-and-distance situations the Green Wave find themselves in.
“Glen ran it well last game, and he really looked like a running quarterback on a bunch of plays,” Fritz said. “I think he’s getting an understanding of sprinting to that seam between two guys and not taking on a dude. One time, he should’ve gone out of bounds, but I think he’s starting to run much more effectively and he’s starting to grasp that part of it.
“He’s fast enough and he has good size at 205 or 210 pounds. He’s just really starting to understand it a lot more.”
Despite Cuiellette’s improvement, Fritz said he still plans to use freshman quarterback Johnathan Brantley for a series or two Friday night. While Brantley’s entrance will be subject to the flow of the game, Fritz sees the merit in showing a defense multiple looks.
However, Cuiellette’s improvement in the running game has minimized the need for Brantley, since Tulane is already finding some success through the air to complement its production on the ground.
“I think it opens up the passing game,” Fritz said. “You have to do both, otherwise the defense knows if that guy is in the game, we’re throwing it and if the other guy is in the game, we’re running it. We just have to be able to do both, and I think we are starting to.”