Green Wave football opens Yulman Stadium era against Georgia Tech

Yulman Stadium

Mackenna Barker, Contributing Reporter & Oliver Grigg

The Green Wave football team (0-1, 0-1) returns to campus for home games for the first time since 1974, as it faces Georgia Tech (1-0) 3 p.m. Saturday at Yulman Stadium in front of a national television audience on ESPNews.

The opening of Yulman Stadium has created much buzz in the university and city. Tickets for the general public sold out in 14 minutes. Students claimed all 4,354 student section tickets in two days and lined up as early as 4 a.m. to quickly secure an additional 500 tickets made available by Tulane Athletics for students.

Head coach Curtis Johnson is well aware of the significance of the upcoming game.

“It’s always good to make a great impression,” Johnson said. “We have to get to a phase in our program where we win all our home games and turn [Yulman Stadium] into a big home field advantage.” 

Georgia Tech, the first opponent to step foot into Yulman Stadium, plays a versatile triple-option style of football. Georgia Tech ranked as the No. 6 best rushing team last season with 299.3 yards per game and led the nation in yards per pass completion at 18.42 yards.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Justin Thomas made his first career start against Wofford Aug. 30 and recorded 353 yards of total offense. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas also ran for 71 yards on 13 carries. 

Senior wide receiver DeAndre Smelter had two touchdowns and 132 reception yards against Wofford. Smelter ranked first among the team’s wide receivers with 21 receptions and 345 total receiving yards last season.

“Our first year here we had trouble with that offense, but a year ago we finally played well against that,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to mimic because [Georgia Tech] is the only team that does this that we face, so it’ll be a lot different for us.”

While Tulane’s defense struggled in its 38-31 loss in double overtime against Tulsa, Johnson said he is not discouraged for this week’s home opener.

“We just have to play assignment football this week,” Johnson said. “Our guys have to do their assignments to their best ability, and if they can do that, we’ll have a good chance of beating Georgia Tech.”

Much like last week, Tulane will need to rely on its younger players and offensive firepower.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee completed 22 of 44 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the game, while redshirt freshman running back Sherman Badie ran 15 times for 215 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown run.

“I thought [Lee] played very well,” Johnson said. “[Badie] played very, very well, [and] a lot of the young kids [are] starting to grow up.” 

Saturday’s game marks the 49th meeting between Tulane and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech leads the series at 35-13.