Newfound confidence leaves Tulane football hungry for win against Memphis

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Freshman receiver Leondre James flexes after he scored a touchdown in the 31-24 win against Houston Saturday. James caught four passes for 41 yards and chalked up his first touchdown of the season. 

Jonathan Harvey, Online Sports Editor

Tulane football welcomes the American Athletic Conference-leading Memphis to Yulman Stadium for Homecoming Saturday. No doubt, this will be the Wave’s toughest opponent since Duke, now ranked No. 21 in the nation. Memphis has dominated in the AAC, going 4-1, though notably losing to Houston 28-24 on Oct. 11.

The Green Wave narrowly defeated Houston last week 31-24. The Wave’s defense particularly excelled, forcing four turnovers in the victory, including freshman cornerback Parry Nickerson’s interception on a fourth-and-goal throw in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter.

Tulane has its swagger back. The defense looks like it is salivating for turnovers each down and the young offense is finally finding its identity with its dynamic running attack and an improving ability to strike through the air.  Speedy freshman running back Sherman Badie is rested and redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee seems to have his grip on the offense.

The Wave’s early season botches primarily happened on special teams, with freshman kicker Andrew DiRocco going 1/5 on field goal attempts and missing two extra points in the first five games of the season. There were countless other special teams turnovers and miscues. Now, head coach Curtis Johnson seems to have addressed these setbacks and Tulane looks like the most dangerous 3-6 team in the nation.

No disrespect to Memphis’ defense, which ranks No. 13 in the nation in points allowed with 18.7 per game, but the Wave is coming off a confidence-building road win.

Both the Green Wave offense and defense have plenty of talent but Johnson can not teach experience and the Wave showed its offensive inexperience early this season. Special teams, Lee’s injuries and a lack of offensive chemistry have contributed to each loss. The offense and special teams put the defense in terrible situations, giving the opposing teams fantastic field position and exhausting the defense because the offense could not stay on the field.

The Green Wave would have to win the remaining three games to make it to a bowl game. Never underestimate a desperate, healthy and hungry team. Tulane is in a position to be a dark horse in the AAC for remainder of the season. Look for a Homecoming upset Saturday. Tulane holds on to win a tight, high scoring affair, 35-31.