Wave defense shuts down Southeastern, leads way to 35-20 victory

William Potts, Associate Sports Editor

Tulane (1-2, 0-1 AAC) needed to rebound against in-state rival Southeastern Louisiana after an underwhelming 0-2 start to the season. The Wave did just that Saturday night, as it picked up a resounding 35-20 win in the first night game at Yulman Stadium.

Southeastern, coming off a dominant 41-14 win over Southern Utah Sept. 6, was held to a three and out on its opening drive of the game, as Tulane’s defense set the tone early.

“[Our defense] just wanted to keep it in the pocket,” head coach Curtis Johnson said. “I thought our defensive ends played outstanding, [and kept Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett] in the pocket. We never let them get out, we never let them get flush. I thought we had a perfect game plan.”

The Green Wave defense effectively shutdown both Southeastern’s rushing and passing attack, as it held them to just 58 rushing yards on the ground and 213 yards in the air. 

Johnson said the defensive line’s improved play this week contributed to the defense’s ability to shut down Southeastern.

“The [defensive line] played well,” Johnson said. “We rotated a lot of guys [into the lineup] and a lot of our guys were fresh. It was a great effort.” 

Redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee, who threw three interceptions in a 38-21 loss against Georgia Tech last Saturday, shook off the previous week’s woes and played an efficient and mistake-free first half.

Lee completed 9 of 18 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, and threw an impressive ball through tripe coverage to connect with senior wide receiver Justyn Shackleford for a 25-yard gain on Tulane’s first offensive drive. Freshman running back Sherman Badie later broke several tackles as he powered his way across the goal line to cap off an 8 play, 46-yard drive. 

Badie said getting the first win of the season was a big step for the program this season. 

“[Defeating Southeastern] feels great,” Badie said. “We came out strong, we executed our plays, and we did what we had to do to get the win. Now, we just have to get back to work and focus on getting better for next week.”

Tulane sophomore running back Lazedrick Thompson scored the Wave’s second rushing touchdown of the evening, as the team rushed for 122 total yards.

Johnson said he was proud of his young quarterback’s resilience after struggling against Georgia Tech, and ability to guide the team to its first victory of the season.

“I thought [Tanner] was excellent,” Johnson said. “He’ll throw an interception, then come right back and throw a touchdown. I love his leadership, I love his gamesmanship, and I love his command of the offense.” 

While Lee’s play deteriorated in the second half, as he threw two interceptions, senior wide receiver Xavier Rush, sensing his team losing momentum, reignited the Wave with an electrifying post-reception run. The 74-yard touchdown reception opened Tulane’s lead to 35-13.

“Coach tells us to play fast everyday in practice, and that’s what I did [in the game],” Rush said. “I just reacted to the defender and moved to the outside. I didn’t see anybody else so I just kept running.”

Southeastern’s hopes for a late-game comeback were effectively silenced with seven minutes left in the game, as senior safety Sam Scofield picked off Bennett’s downfield pass, solidifying the Wave’s win.

Tulane will next face Duke 11:30 a.m. next Saturday (3-0, 2-0 ACC) in Durham, N.C.

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