Tulane Football falls to Louisiana Lafayette in first bowl game since 2002

David Holden

A few inches to the right and Tulane might have celebrated its first bowl win in 11 seasons. Instead, the Green Wave football team ended its season with a 24-21 loss in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Dec. 21 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Despite the heartbreaker, both the season and the bowl game give the football program hope it hasn’t had in more than a decade.

The New Orleans Bowl is a microcosm of the Wave’s entire season, similar to how the Wave started off: slow with disappointing losses to South Alabama and Syracuse. Louisiana-Lafayette jumped to 21-0 lead to start and Tulane did not look like a seven-win football team.

The Wave showed an uncharacteristic resilience this season and rattled off four straight victories. Tulane demonstrated that tenacity in the bowl game by overcoming the 21-point deficit with 21 unanswered points of its own.

Unfortunately, the Green Wave fell just short of its first bowl victory since 2002 against Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii. What transpired at the New Orleans Bowl, however, still represents a dramatic change in the culture of Tulane football.

Most teams crumble under low expectations and adversity on a big stage such as a bowl game, but head coach Curtis Johnson had his team believing they could win no matter the circumstances. Though Johnson rotated his quarterback throughout the season and bowl game, he proved that he could make this program successful regardless of who is under center.

After finishing with two wins last year, not many people believed Tulane could win more than a couple of games this season, let alone make a bowl game. Instead, the Green Wave won seven games, which equals the combined victories of the previous three seasons.

Critics may argue that Tulane’s winning season was the outcome of an easy schedule.

The first step to building a program, however, is beating up on the teams that are worse, and that is exactly what Johnson did this year. He used an easy schedule to give his program some energy.

The bowl game put Tulane on the national stage and gave the program attention that it desperately needed and the added benefits of recruiting. For the first time in 11 years, the Green Wave was able to invite recruits to a bowl game.

Next year, the momentum snowballs with a move to the American Athletic Conference, which could mean an extra $1 million for the athletics program.

Johnson just received a contract extension to remain at Tulane through the end of the decade. There is also the introduction of Yulman

Stadium, which, hopefully finishes on time.

Sure, a bowl victory would have been a major statement, but the appearance in the New Orleans Bowl alone represents an optimism that Tulane and its students have not experienced in more than a decade.