Yulman comes alive!
Tulane scores 66 in head coach Willie Fritz’s home opener
“It must have been a dream. I don’t believe where I’ve been. C’mon, let’s do it again!”
Peter Frampton made those lyrics famous as the intro to the chorus in "Do You Feel Like We Do," the closing track on his legendary live album Frampton Comes Alive.
Tulane fans have felt that way since Saturday, when the Green Wave rattled off a 66-21 victory over Southern University, in front of a near capacity crowd of 27,179.
From the get-go, the Green Wave offense, defense and special teams were all over Southern like spots on a jaguar. Tulane scored on its opening drive after gaining possession off a Southern fumble. In the first quarter alone, Tulane’s defense grabbed two interceptions, including a 96-yard pick six, returned a kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown, and blocked a punt.
New head coach Willie Fritz is being heralded as one of the best offseason signings in college football. He has compiled a 154–69 overall record, having won nearly 70 percent of the games in which he’s been a head coach.
After a 7-3 road loss to Wake Forest in the season opener, Fritz’s esteemed option-based offense was on display in his first home game. The Green Wave scored seven rushing touchdowns, including three from Dontrell Hilliard and two each from Josh Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson, and ran for 437 yards, most since 1973 and third most in school history.
True freshman quarterback Johnathan Brantley rushed for 119 yards, including a 63-yard dash on his first collegiate play.
“I've been to tens of thousands of Tulane games in my life. Tonight was one of my funnest,” said Vince Liberto, a diehard Tulane fan seen at many of the school’s sporting events waving an “Angry Wave” flag autographed by several generations of Green Wave athletes.
The head coach hopes it’s the first of many wins for Tulane’s football program.
“We want to get better every week,” Fritz said. “Part of my job is changing the culture of the program where we have high expectations and expect to win every single week. You have to work to win a bunch of games. It’s not easy. You know half of the teams in America lose every week. Half of them win. At the end of the season, half have a winning record. Half have a losing record. If it was easy, everybody would win. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Part of keeping his players focused is turning the focus from the win to Saturday’s contest against the cadets of the United States Naval Academy.
“I’m proud of the win. It was my first one as head football coach here, but we’ve moved on. Too often guys look back at past failures and successes and it influences their performance the following week. That game counted as one, just like the week before and just like this coming game.”
Citing the spark he provided the offense, Fritz named Brantley, 18 years old, the starter for the game against the Midshipmen.
“It’s a great feeling, but I know I have to keep working,” Brantley said. “I don’t want to let any of my teammates down, so I’m going to give 100 percent. I’m going to block, pitch, throw, run, do everything I can to help this team win.”
Winning has been on the mind of senior linebacker Nico Marley. A four-year starter, Marley has seen the Green Wave finish 3-9 the past two seasons. He said the team’s return to practice this week has been intense and spirited.
“It’s been real up tempo,” Marley said. “It’s beautiful.”
Still the focus has shifted.
“We got the first win. It gets a little confidence rolling, but now we have to build on it each and every week. We’re looking to play our best game every week.”
Tulane will host Navy on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m., and Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.