Wave football in for a long night against Southeastern if adjustments are not made

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Riptide mingles with fans in the Wave’s 38-21 loss against Georgia Tech Sept. 6 in its inaugural game at Yulman Stadium. 

Oliver Grigg, Print Sports Editor

In the first half in Saturday’s against Georgia Tech, the Green Wave lived up to the hype that surrounded its return Uptown.

Sophomore linebacker Eric Thomas sacked sophomore Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, and forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage and redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee led the Wave to the end zone in its first offensive drive. Lee tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Justyn Shackleford, the first touchdown in Yulman Stadium history, to cap off the incredible start to the new era.

This high-energy start, however, was seemingly just a fluke against Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech’s offense focused on establishing its triple-option running game, which it did effortlessly and the Wave had no answer. Georgia Tech’s running game accounted for 344 of its 359 total yards of offense.

Georgia Tech’s defense pressured Lee all game and caused Lee to struggle with consistency throughout the game. While Lee completed 13 of 24 passes for 178 yards and 2 touchdowns, he threw 3 interceptions, which contributed to 14 of Georgia Tech’s 31 points. 

To compound all of Tulane’s mistakes and struggles, freshman kicker Andrew DiRocco missed a 27-yard field goal attempt. For the second consecutive week, DiRocco failed to convert a field goal. The Wave cannot afford to miss any opportunities for points.

“I thought our kids came out and fought hard and forced some turnovers early,” head coach Curtis Johnson said. “We made some big plays but could never sustain anything. Every time our drives were stopped we shot ourselves in the foot or we made a critical error on defense.”

First, it was the Wave’s lack of poise and clarity in the play-calling that factored into its loss against Tulsa. Now, it is just bad football – offensively and defensively.

Lee, however, is not to blame for the Wave’s offensive shortcomings. Lee threw three touchdown passes in his debut against Tulsa on Aug. 28 and two touchdown passes in the first half against Georgia Tech and has consistently led Tulane’s offense. His interceptions are growing pains. Lee was hit seven times against Georgia Tech and nine the week before at Tulsa. Though Lee made some young reads, the offensive line isn’t giving him any favors.  

Tulane’s offense needs Lee more than ever against Southeastern Louisiana 7 p.m. Saturday at Yulman Stadium. Lee, however, has not practiced all week, after being pulled before the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech. Johnson said Lee had some heat-related issues and had endured some hard hits.

If Lee is unable to play, redshirt sophomore Devin Powell, who served as senior quarterback Nick Montana’s backup and completed 54.5 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and five interceptions last season, will get the start.

While Johnson has expressed his delight over Powell’s development and arm strength, Lee is the more capable quarterback by far.  

Through two games, Tulane’s defense has shown the ability to consistently defend the pass and run game of its opponents and the Wave will face an offense Saturday that has averaged 42.5 points per game. Southeastern senior quarterback Bryan Bennett can pass and run, and junior running back Kody Sutton and senior wide receiver Devante Scott are two dangerous members of its rushing and passing attack.

Johnson said that though it’s a Football Championship Subdivision program, Southeastern’s offensive and defensive weapons have the potential to give the Tulane defense headaches all night long.  

“I talked to a pro scout earlier this summer and he thought Southeastern had the most talent next to LSU in the state of Louisiana,” Johnson said. “They have a bunch of kids who transferred from a lot of different [Football Bowl Subdivision] schools. [Southeastern] is a really good football team.” 

Prediction: 31-17 Southeastern Louisiana. Without having inside knowledge of how the Wave has prepared for Saturday’s matchup, it’s hard to know what to expect. To put it bluntly, however, if the Wave does not make huge offensive and defensive strides during its practices this week, it’s going to be a long Saturday night for the Wave – and an underwhelming start to Tulane football’s return Uptown.