20180915_TulaneUAB

UAB running back Spencer Brown (28) escapes a tackle by Tulane linebacker Zachery Harris (40) during the Tulane-UAB game on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. The Blazers beat the Green Wave, 31-24. 

WHAT WE LEARNED

Tulane has not taken a step forward yet. These are the games the Green Wave needs to win the erase the stigma of years of losing, and, despite a comatose start, this one was there for the taking late in the fourth quarter. But UAB made the plays necessary to get the victory while Tulane did not. With the Blazers pinned at their 7-yard line and all of the momentum on its side, the Wave allowed a 93-yard tie-breaking touchdown drive. Quarterback Jonathan Banks then held the ball too long and fumbled when he was hit, ending Tulane’s last, best chance to tie it again.

TRENDING NOW

Banks must play better for Tulane to reach its own preseason expectations. The quarterback usually gets too much blame in a loss, but the Wave does not have enough margin for error to win unless he is a difference-maker. Saddled with poor pass protection for most of the day, he needed to show better pocket presence and sense when the hits were coming. He also needed to be more aggressive, waiting until a desperation drive in the final minute to start scrambling forward. Sure, UAB’s prevent defense made it easier, but he is a good enough athlete to make guys miss. He never sprinted downfield for the first 59 minutes.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At some point, Tulane is going to win a game like this, right? Right? The Wave was fortunate to be in good position in the fourth quarter, but so many plays could have tipped the balance in its favor. What if Corey Dauphine had not been caught at the ankle on what appeared to be a long TD run? What if Willie Fritz had stuck to his original decision to punt rather than going for it in the first half—he changed his mind after a timeout and UAB returned a Banks fumble for a TD. What if Terren Encalade had not been flagged for an illegal block on Darius Bradwell’s apparent go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter? The what ifs were endless.

Follow Guerry Smith on Twitter, @guersmith