Tulane loses Yulman opener

Will Potts, Associate Sports Editor

Tulane sophomore linebacker Eric Thomas sacked sophomore Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas, and forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in Yulman Stadium, as the Green Wave showed 30,000 spectators that the new uniforms, conference, and facilities weren’t just for show.

Georgia Tech, however, ruined the rest of Tulane’s initiation into its new era, as it defeated the Wave 38-21.

On the ensuing drive after the sack-fumble, redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee led the Wave offense to the end zone in three plays, the last a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Justyn Shackleford, the first touchdown in Yulman Stadium history.

“I was so excited to catch the first touchdown in our new stadium,” Shackleford said, “[but] we didn’t come out with the win which was more important to me.” 

The sold-out stadium energized the Wave, and contributed to the team’s fast start. Senior wide receiver Xavier Rush, who led the team with 71 yards receiving yards and one touchdown, said Yulman’s environment helped to fire up the team.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Rush said. “The fans came and cheered loud, the support was amazing.”

The Yellow Jackets, however, proved unfazed by the early mishap, focusing on establishing its potent option-running game. Georgia Tech’s running game accounted for 344 of their total 359 total yards of offense, and in the first quarter, developed a 10 play, 75 yard drive to tie the score at 7-7.

Senior safety Sam Scofield found the pace of Tech difficult to contain.

“The way they run it, how fast they run it, it’s hard to mimic in practice.” Scofield said. “The big plays killed us. The way they play, they have people running down the field left and right. It was tough.”

The Green Wave responded with a 5 minute offensive drive of its own, capped off with freshman receiver Teddy Veal’s first career touchdown Shortly after, sophomore linebacker Nico Marley recovered the team’s second forced fumble of the day.

Tech’s defense held strong, however, and freshman kicker Andrew DiRocco missed a 27-yard attempt.

Georgia Tech pressured Lee all game and early in the second quarter, Georgia Tech senior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy picked off Lee’s late pass, returning it for a touchdown.

Later in the half, Lee’s struggles with consistency continued as he threw his second interception, and Georgia Tech took advantage as senior running back Tony Zenon rushed for his first of two touchdowns.

Lee finished with a 54% completion rating, completing 13 of 24 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Lee’s three turnovers contributed to 14 of Georgia Tech’s 31 points. 

Lee was also sacked three times, and head coach Curtis Johnson believes the hard hits and unique defensive schemes Georgia Tech contributed to his struggles.

“He got hit a couple times, and got the wind knocked out of him,” Johnson said. “He was a little bit inconsistent, [as Georgia Tech] really did a great job changing looks up on him.”

Sophomore quarterback Devin Powell, who had not played a snap so far in the 2014 season, replaced Lee, who suffered an apparent injury, as the 4th quarter began. Completing just four of his 11 pass attempts, he was unable to reignite Tulane’s offense, which did not reach the end zone for the remainder of the game.

Tulane’s record dropped to (0-2, 0-1 AAC) for the season with the loss. The Wave next play Southeastern Louisiana September 13 in Yulman Stadium.