Tulane vs. Cincinnati Diary: reporters exchange emails before Ghoulman Stadium

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Redshirt freshman quarterback celebrates after the 35-20 inaugural victory Sept. 13 in Yulman Stadium. Lee has been sidelined by a shoulder injury for last two games and returns Friday against Cincinnati. 

Jonathan Harvey, Online Sports Editor Oliver Grigg

Every time there’s a Tulane primetime television game, Hullsports reporters like to candidly trade emails about Tulane’s chances and pray that the Wave aren’t featured on the not-top-plays the following night (3 this year). This week, Print Sports Editor Oliver Grigg and Online Sports Editor Jonny Harvey were joined by former Sports Editor and current columnist, David Holden. All emails stemmed from Wednesday 2:03 p.m. up to Thursday afternoon. 

(We also have class to attend, so we apologize for some awkward gaps in time.) 

Jonny Harvey (2:03 p.m. Wednesday):  

So I was going to ask your thoughts about Tulane’s appearance last season’s on ESPN when the announcers gave Nico Marley the Bullet nickname… but then I remembered that Tanner Lee’s finally back. Do the Wave have a chance to win Friday night’s game against Cincinnati with Lee leading the way? 

David Holden (2:18 p.m. Wednesday):

ESPN’s coverage of Tulane mostly centered on Devon Walker. This year there are, I don’t want to say bigger story lines, but more game-oriented aspects that will be addressed.

Lee’s return gives Tulane a passing dimension that the Wave has lacked over the last couple games and Cincinnati isn’t as good as they were last year. Tulane definitely has a chance, and a pretty good one at that, but I think this one is going to be decided by the fans.

I’m most excited to see how Tulane will handle having a true home field advantage. So far, the Green Wave have played much better at home. It’ll be interesting to see how a full stadium, Halloween in New Orleans and a primetime game impacts this team’s play.

Jonny Harvey (6:12 p.m. Wednesday): 

I guarantee the ESPN announcers mention the Walker story three times even if he’s not at the game. The Walker story is incredible, but ESPN milks it and makes it come off as a gimmick. During last season’s bowl game, a Tulane player suffered an injury, and instead of cutting to commercial break, ESPN put cameras behind Walker as he watched his fellow teammate get checked by team doctors. It sure rubbed me the wrong way. 

We might as well make a drinking game out of it. Take a sip every time they mention Walker for no apparent reason or that Captain Checkdown (senior quarterback Nick Montana) is Joe Montana’s son and make up a nickname that no one has ever heard of. Oh, and finish your drink when Tulane commits a special teams error. 

Did I leave anything out? 

Oliver Grigg (6:43 p.m. Wednesday): 

I can’t lie — I’m excited to watch Cincinnati’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel play more than anything. 

Maybe you don’t remember, but once upon a time Kiel was one of the nation’s best QB recruits. Scouts said Kiel has a strong, NFL-ready arm and was a deceptively good athlete. In fact, scouts debated if Kiel or Jameis Winston, a Florida State recruit, was the best QB in the nation. Yes, Kiel and Winston were once on the same level. 

Kiel, a native of Indiana, committed to Indiana but then decommitted and committed to LSU. Because that wasn’t enough committing and decommitting, Kiel decommitted from LSU and committed to Notre Dame…..but transferred from Norte Dame because he was buried on the QB depth chart…..

And here we are today discussing Cincinnati’s quarterback. Needless to say, Kiel’s journey has been one heck of a ride. 

All that said, Kiel is still a tremendous quarterback — if not the best in the American Athletic Conference. In his Cincinnati debut, Kiel made his mark fast, as he threw for 6 touchdowns and 418 yards. Kiel has thrown for 2049 yards and 20 touchdowns this season and leads Cincinnati’s high power offense.  

While he may not be on Winston’s Heisman Trophy winner-level, Kiel is a damn good quarterback….and I’m excited to watch him play.

Prediction: Gunner Kiel wins the day.

Jonny Harvey (10:23 p.m. Wednesday): 

Speaking of predictions, what are the odds that more than half the student body shows up for this game? Halloween in New Orleans is basically Mardi Gras in the fall down here.  

Students might head to Voodoo Fest. I mean OutKast headlines the Friday show. OutKast, the band of our generation, in New Orleans, on Halloween weekend, on their last tour.

Not to mention the Downtown festivities. Freshmen, the highest supporting class of students who show up to games so far, might prefer to experience Halloween without “Ghoulman Stadium.” Besides the inaugural game against Georgia Tech, the student section hasn’t sold out. Tulane’s 2-5, but I don’t think more than 30 percent of students even know the Wave’s record.

Will they want to show up to support a losing team when there are plenty of other Halloween festivities? 

Oliver Grigg (11:03 Wednesday): 

Factually speaking, Yulman Stadium’s student section consists of 4,354 of the facility’s 30,000 seats. There are roughly 13,000 or something students enrolled in Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate programs combined. Half of 13,000 or something is 6,500 or something. Long story short, Yulman’s student section cannot physically fit all or half of the school’s students. Did I take that too literally?

I do think there will be a strong student showing at the game. Students will inevitably flock Downtown and to other festivities, but Tulane Athletics has done a great job promoting the event as a kickoff to Halloween and the student body seems to have bought in. It’s going to be a great atmosphere for football.

David Holden (8:33 a.m. Thursday): 

I don’t know if the student section will be sold out, but the “Tsunami” should still be well represented. Asking half the student population to come to a football game is a lot to ask of any game and of any school. The students, however, showed up for the Southeastern game and they were also louder than opening day. The game is also on primetime and I know of several students planning out costumes just to get on TV.

The student section can get pretty loud and hopefully will be able have an impact on Kiel, who is very talented, but that hasn’t necessarily shown up on the field at all times.

I’m less concerned with the students showing and more concerned with the fans on the away sideline. I understand the Glazer Club is nice, but its ridiculous that there is a wasteland full of empty seats during the games. How embarrassing would it be for Tulane for ESPN to show the stadium with a quarter of the seats unoccupied. 

The last three years, all Tulane fans complained that students didn’t show up to games. Well, now they are and now it’s time that for the fans who paid thousands of dollars for their seats to actually sit in them, or at least stand right in front of them.

Jonny Harvey (11:04 a.m. Thursday): 

I snuck into the Glazer Family Club the first game, splurged on some steak and enjoyed the game from a comfortable couch with plenty of HD televisions that all play the same game outside. 

Not saying it’s a good thing these fans don’t sit in their seats, but I can see the appeal to never make it out of GameDay Heaven. 

Does this mean athletics make the Glazer Club too nice? I don’t see this problem getting solved this season or in future years. Athletics can’t restrict when a fan should sit in their seat, or when they want to enjoy the amenities they paid good money for. 

I’m sure a lot of ESPN viewers will question if this game is actually sold out. The broadcast cameras view the half empty section. 

Oliver Grigg (11:39 a.m. Thursday): 

I think the Glazer Club seating “issue” is a non-issue. 

Stadiums all across the country have the same sort of conundrum regarding luxury seating, so it’s not an issue just unique to Tulane. In baseball stadiums, the seats behind home plate and alongs the baselines don’t always look full because ticket holders have access to private clubs, dining options, etc. The same occurs in football stadiums, basketball arenas, etc. 

If you paid for seating that offered incredible amenities, it’d be a little unusual to not take advantage, no?

And if I’m Tulane Athletics, I wouldn’t care too much that the seats look unoccupied or be embarrassed that ESPN might broadcast empty sections to the nation…..as they say, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.”

Jonny Harvey (12:17 p.m. Thursday): 

It’d be nice to have the Halloween game be a tradition every year, but as a fan, I don’t want to see a 2-5 team lose every year. It’d be like how the Detroit Lions get the Thanksgiving Day gig every year since 1934.  

The other day, a good friend asked me if Tulane will see ESPN College GameDay travel to campus anytime in the next three years. My first thought, absolutely not. 

But then I thought about this offense and how young it is. The offense goes through three freshmen in Lee, receiver Teddy Veal and running back Sherman Badie. Not to mention sophomore running back Lazedrick Thompson.  

Johnson recruits well, and football programs normally have a 3 year window to win. It’s not crazy to imagine the Wave atop the American Athletic Conference standings in two or three years. Am I sweating the Kool-Aid, or do I actually have something here?

David Holden (12:45 p.m. Thursday): 

The Halloween game would be a great tradition and I think Tulane won’t be 2-5 every year. This team is still really young like you mentioned and once these guys gain some experience Tulane will be a fun team to watch. 

As for College GameDay, I think that might be dreaming a little too much. I agree that its not crazy that the Green Wave can be close to the top of the American in the next few years, but that says more about the conference than it does Tulane. 

Even if the Wave become a top 25 ranked school, that means that they have to play another top 25 ranked team and the American is pretty short on those. I would love College GameDay to come here. This town would buzzing and I can already picture the “Tanner Lee will you have my baby” sign from one of the students. 

Unfortunately, I think thats a pipe dream as of right now.

Oliver Grigg (3:06 p.m. Thursday): 

I don’t think Tulane will making an appearance on ESPN College GameDay anytime soon. Not going to happen for a number of reasons, but mainly because only one school in the AAC has ever hosted College GameDay — Houston in 2003. 

SEC, Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC schools are the most frequent hosts of the show. Tulane nor the AAC is near that caliber. Maybe one day, but I don’t see it happening in the next 3 years. Not unless the AAC becomes a powerhouse or Tulane becomes a world-beater. 

That said, North Dakota State in Fargo, ND hosted College GameDay earlier this year…..so you never know.

Jonny Harvey (4:59 p.m. Thursday): 

If North Dakota State can do it, I’m a believer. 

Back to the actual game Friday, Lee returns! We haven’t seen him since Rutgers and there are so many questions. Will Johnson run a balanced offensive attack or have Lee throw over 40 passes? How many passes will he try to force? How many fans will dress up as No. 12? Will ESPN give him a corny nickname? This game is going to be great.  

Lee hasn’t completed a game yet without throwing an interception. Will Johnson call more aggressive plays now that Captain Checkdown is back on the bench? I personally would like to establish the run early, and get Lee throwing off play-action. Badie and Thompson are too talented for Lee to act like Saints quarterback Drew Brees. 

David Holden (5:46 p.m. Thursday): 

I agree. Badie and Thompson are the key to the offense. That tandem is a beast and a gift to a freshman quarterback. I don’t think Lee has to be great. Cincy has the nation’s 117th ranked defenses, so as long as the Wave don’t turn it over I think they can win this one. 

Lee’s had time to watch the game from the sideline and that should slow the game down for him, as he looked rushed in his last couple games. He’s more talented than Montana, so Johnson should ask him to take a few shots down the field, but if Lee’s throwing it more than 35 times this game, Tulane has no chance.

The Wave’s defense seems to have found its stride the last two games and defensive coordinator Lionel Washington has had two weeks to prepare a game plan for Kiel, who is a little banged up at the moment.  

I predict Lee’s learned from his mistakes and he won’t have to do too much against this Bearcats defense to lead Tulane to victory. He just has to stay within himself and let the defense do their thing. 

My prediction: Tulane wins 28-24

Oliver Grigg (6:33 p.m. Thursday): 

Plain and simple: there are lots of question marks for Tulane. The run game will have to carry the Wave, but Lee is the guy that makes the offense tick. Lee will need to keep the mistakes limited and I think it’s best to play conservative. Establish the ground game and take advantage of the Cincinnati defense on play-action passes. 

Obviously I’m huge on Kiel, but there are lots of question marks for Cincinnati offensively and defensively. 

Can’t say too much about a prediction, but can say this: it’s going to be a great game.