Tulane defeats Grambling State in season opener


Shea Dobson | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior running back Dontrell Hilliard makes a run for the Green Wave at Saturday’s game in Yulman Stadium.

With many starters departed on offense and defense, coupled with Willie Fritz’s history of turning programs around in his second season, a match against Grambling State seemed poised to be the dawn of a new era for Tulane. New era it was, as a confident offensive performance and a strong defensive showing gave way to a 43-14 victory for the Green Wave, bringing the team’s record to 1-0.

The Tigers started the game with the ball, but after a quick three-and-out, the ball went to the Green Wave for its first offensive possession of the season. That possession was also over quickly, but for much different reasons. On third down, JUCO transfer Jonathan Banks, in his first game as starting QB for Tulane, dodged a tackler and threw on his heel to Terren Encalade, who broke a tackle and went 30 yards for the touchdown. New starting kicker Coby Neenan made his first extra point to make it a 7-0 game, and the era of new beginnings was off to as smooth a start as one could hope for.

Another touchdown in the first came from Banks, who led the team in rushing for the quarter with 42 yards. The quarter ended with Tulane up 14-0. Possessions were plentiful and fruitless for the Tigers, who punted thrice and only had two first downs the whole quarter.

Shea Dobson | Senior Staff Photographer
Redshirt freshman Coby Neenan sets up for an extra point attempt during the football game against Grambling State Saturday at Benson Field in Yulman Stadium.

The second quarter saw both teams punting back and forth before a long Tulane drive ended with a 22-yard Coby Neenan field goal, leaving a potential touchdown on the 4-yard line. After another three-and-out for the Tigers, the Green Wave put and end to its own drive in three plays with a 62-yard connection from Banks to running back Dontrell Hilliard. 24-0 Green Wave. Grambling State finally got some momentum with a long pass from DeVante Kincade to Darrell Clark, but a 13-yard sack by redshirt senior Luke Jackson prevented the Tigers from scoring before halftime.

Blocking was a huge part of the night for Tulane, and it factored right into the start of the second half with a massive kick return that put the Green Wave in its opponents territory. Banks quickly moved the ball down the field with a first-down pass to Terrence Encalade and capped it off three plays later with a touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney, bringing the lead to 31-0. The train continued to roll for Tulane, but a long touchdown drive got Grambling State some momentum of its own, ending the quarter with a score of 31-7, Tulane.

Shea Dobson | Senior Staff Photographer
Junior quarterback Jonathan Banks is tackled by two Grambling State players during the football game Saturday in Yulman Stadium.

Tulane responded with another touchdown through the air, a 58-yard connection from Banks to Encalade. To seal the deal, sophomore running back Darius Bradwell ran 27 yards for a touchdown. Despite two missed extra points, the score was 43-7 even a 51 yard-Martez Carter touchdown run wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding for the Tigers. Backups entered the game on both sides, and the quarter quickly passed, ending the game with a 43-14 Tulane victory.

Tulane will be on the road against Navy next week.

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