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Members of the Tulane 1998 undefeated football team celebrate Saturday, September 8, 2018 at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans.

They lifted the 1998 Liberty Bowl trophy above their heads Saturday night, just like they did 20 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee.

And as the players hoisting that trophy from Tulane's magical 1998 season tell it, it feels just a special now as it did back then.

"It really is like a fine wine," said Jimmy Ordeneaux, an offensive lineman on that team. "Every single year, it gets better and better."

Tulane celebrated the 20-year anniversary of its undefeated team Saturday night, then the current team paid homage as well with a 42-17 victory over Nicholls State.

"They are the standard here at Tulane," current Green Wave coach Willie Fritz said afterwards. 

An announced crowd of 21,092 — sprinkled with just as much Colonels red as Green Wave green — showed up for the first meeting between the two schools.

Almost every seat would have been filled 20 years ago if Yulman Stadium was around then. Average attendance at home games in the Superdome for the 1998 team was 27,943.

"Can you imagine if we had played in this environment with our team?" Ordeneaux said. "Business for the scalpers would have been very profitable."

That team, led by its offense that put up Arena League type numbers, gave Wave fans plenty to see.

They won 11 of their 12 games by double digits and averaged 45 points per game. The 540 points scored that season is still a school record.

"We were just ahead of our time," said receiver P.J. Franklin. "We were doing it 10 years before what Oregon was doing with Chip Kelly. We were just so focused on winning and we were willing to do whatever it took."

Franklin, who had 1,221 receiving yards that season, was one of the more notable stars who came back for the reunion.

The three more high-profile names associated with that team — head coach Tommy Bowden, offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez and quarterback Shaun King (an assistant coach at South Florida) — didn't attend.

But this team wasn't good just because of who was playing. Instead, they give credit to the closeness of the team and the up- tempo offense.  

"We weren't the most talented guys in the world, but we were willing to do what it took to win," Ordeneaux said. "We knew we had a team beat when we saw the defensive linemen bending over with their hands on their hips. They were more talented, but we were going to wear their (butts) out. And that's precisley what hapened."

Tulane's special season came in the first year of the BCA era. Tennessee, led by quarterback Tee Martin, beat Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship that year.

Tulane beat BYU in the Liberty Bowl.

Although there wasn't any buzz back then of Tulane playing for the national title, some members of that team say they could have held their own.

"We probably would have played Tennessee and given them a run for their money," Jordan said. "On December 31, 1998, I think that day we could have beat anybody that day."

That was the date the Wave lifted the Liberty Bowl trophy in Memphis.

Twenty years later, the greatest team in Tulane history lifted it again.


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.