Tulane faces 1-9 SMU in Dallas and will be looking to win two consecutive road games for the first time in the Curtis Johnson era. The Mustangs have been OK offensively but horrendous defensively under new coach Chad Morris, allowing a nation’s-worst 46.4 points per game and an astounding 273.9 yards per game on the ground, which is better only than Idaho’s and Eastern Michigan’s defenses. FCS opponent James Madison gained 729 yards in a 48-45 upset of the Mustangs. The question is whether Tulane can take advantage of that abysmal defense. The Wave, which showed some signs of life against Army, will need more accuracy from quarterback Tanner Lee, who still is bothered by an injured finger on his throwing hand.
Army threw everything at Tulane and just as easily could have beaten the Wave, but an illegal shift penalty wiped out a go-ahead 2-point conversion in the final two minutes before Lee led an outstanding drive that ended in Andrew DiRocco’s tie-breaking field goal as time ran out. The biggest positives for Tulane were its lack of penalties (two, for the second straight week), its ability to overcome adversity, its defensive penetration and Dontrell Hilliard’s rushing. Hilliard could have a career game against SMU (like, 200-plus yards) if he gets enough carries, even considering how much Tulane’s line has struggled.
Defensive tackles Tanzel Smart and Corey Redwine had monster days against Army’s triple-option offense. Smart, a Baton Rouge native who should be a first-team All-American Athletic Conference selection, had nine stops to increase his tackle total to 48 through 10 games. Redwine, who walked with the seniors at Senior Day last season before deciding to return for a fifth year, made a career-high three tackles for loss. He is the most under-appreciated member of the defense and has turned in by far the best year of his career.
“Our two-minute drill with the game on the line was awesome. … I just love the way Tanner took command of the field.”
— Tulane coach Curtis Johnson
Keep an eye on
The safety position opposite Darion Monroe and the cornerback spot opposite Parry Nickerson have been problems all year, and SMU can take more advantage of those deficiencies than Army. The Black Knights scored their tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter when a receiver beat cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr., a recurring theme for either him or injured starter Richard Allen. Freshman safety Roderic Teamer should be an excellent player down the road, but he is prone to mistakes in his first season. SMU has scored 31, 37, 40 and 45 points in four of its losses, so the Mustangs are capable offensively. Tulane needs better play at those two spots to win in Dallas.
The last time Tulane won twice in November was 2007, and it is halfway there. … SMU ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in almost every defensive category, and Tulane ranks in the bottom 10 in almost every offensive category. … Tulane converted 7 of 14 third downs against Army after entering with a conversion rate of 32 percent. … Thanks to his 90-yard TD in the first quarter, sophomore Teddy Veal had his first 100-yard receiving day with 123 yards on four catches. It was the first 100-yard game by a Wave wideout since Justyn Shackleford in the 2014 opener against Tulsa.