Cincinnati's Cortez Broughton Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan

Cincinnati's Cortez Broughton closes in on Tulane quarterback Justin McMillan during Saturday's game at Nippert Stadium.

Tulane was in a giving mood for Cincinnati’s homecoming game Saturday.

Although the Bearcats entered as the third-most-penalized team in the nation, averaging 93.8 yards, the Green Wave drew 12 flags for 90 yards. The mistakes contributed to a 37-21 loss in a performance that looked nothing like Tulane’s 40-24 takedown of Memphis a week earlier.

Among the infractions, the Wave (2-4, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) was whistled for a false start four times, pass interference twice, a late hit out of bounds, holding twice and a costly 12-men-on-the-field penalty when Cincinnati (6-0, 2-0) faced a fourth-and-2 at the Tulane 30. The Bearcats scored a touchdown on the next play, giving them a 17-7 cushion.

Tulane never had the ball again without facing a double-digit deficit.

Cincinnati was not exactly clean itself, racking up 65 penalty yards and committing three turnovers (the Bearcats had coughed it up only four times in their first games), but Tulane did not play well enough to take advantage.

“Our margin for error is really small,” coach Willie Fritz said. “If we go ahead and shoot ourselves in the foot, it just makes it really difficult to win. ... it’s very disappointing we didn’t carry over our momentum from last week into this week at all.”

Return ace

Freshman Amare Jones set up two of Tulane’s three touchdowns with long kickoff returns, excelling where the Wave has struggled for years.

His 69-yard return to the Cincinnati 30 in the second quarter was the Wave’s longest since Sherman Badie’s 87-yard touchdown return against Southern in 2016. It was the longest against an BCS opponent since Jeremy Williams brought one back 88 yards for a score against Texas-El Paso in 2009.

Jones used a hesitation move to get by kicker Ryan Jones near the sideline, and the Wave scored three plays later on Darius Bradwell’s touchdown run.

Jones added a 51-yard return to the Cincinnati 46 in the fourth quarter before Justin McMillan threw a scoring pass to Terren Encalade.

“If you get him the ball in space, he’ll do some good things,” Fritz said. “He missed him on a little swing route, and if he had caught that he would have gone a long way. We don’t have a bunch of guys who can make you miss, but he’s one of them.”

Big plays

Tulane’s defense stood up for most of the game, stuffing Cincinnati on fourth-and-1 at midfield in the second quarter, but it gave up too many chunk plays.

Running back Michael Warren, held to less than 3 yards per carry on 17 of his attempts, rushed 81 yards for a touchdown on the other one as Cincinnati went ahead for good 10-7 in the second quarter. The Bearcats also scored on a touchdown pass of 25 yards, quarterback Desmond Ridder’s 28-yard run and Tavion Thomas’ 25-yard run.

“We had game plan to eliminate big plays and they came out and got big plays on us,” cornerback Donnie Lewis said. “We just gave up too many explosives.”

Warren had not gained more than 37 yards on any of his 106 carries leading up to the game.

Lagniappe

Tulane fell to 3-11 away from home under Fritz and 0-3 this season. ... Cincinnati maintained its dominance of quarter Nos. 2 through 4. The Bearcats have fallen behind 21-0, 10-0, 7-0 and 7-3 this season but have outscored opponents 185-44 after the first quarter. ... Tulane has an open date before playing SMU on Oct. 20 at Yulman Stadium.

Follow Guerry Smith on Twitter, @guersmith