Tulane football must tackle multiple issues to stay competitive this season

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PARKER_WATERS

The Wave take the field by storm!

Owen Scher, Associate Editor

Through five games, the Tulane football team has had an incredibly thrilling start to the year. Last week’s heartbreaking loss to No. 17 Southern Methodist University was the latest in a season full of tough, hard-fought matchups.

Tulane currently sits at 2-3 overall, and slid to 0-3 in conference play with last week’s defeat. Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt had his best game yet, throwing for a touchdown and a career-high 192 yards. In addition, Pratt added two touchdowns on the ground, with the only negative being an overtime interception.

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True freshman QB Michael Pratt rolls out with his eyes downfield. (PARKER WATERS)

SMU is extremely talented, torching Tulane through the air as former University of Texas at Austin QB Shane Buechele found a number of open receivers, namely Rashee Rice and Danny Gray.

Tulane competed well with the undefeated Mustangs, leading early in the fourth quarter and tying the game on a Merek Glover field goal with less than two minutes remaining. Unfortunately, after Pratt’s overtime interception, SMU converted the game-winning field goal to escape with a close victory.

This wasn’t Tulane’s first brutal loss of the season. Tulane blew a gigantic 24-0 lead against a struggling Navy team, losing on a last-second field goal 27-24.  

The American Athletic Conference is extremely competitive this season. With the exception of East Carolina University, every team Tulane will play for the rest of the season is .500 or above.

The difficult remaining schedule makes Tulane’s path toward a third consecutive winning season daunting. There are several areas that need to improve if the Green Wave is going to come away with positive results. 

One glaring issue for fans watching Tulane play this year is poor tackling and pass defense. Tulane is giving up more than 32 points and over 300 yards per game through the air.

The secondary is an inexperienced unit that opponents have been taking advantage of. In addition to getting beat in coverage, the Green Wave has had a tendency to allow huge gains after the catch due to poor tackling. 

Upcoming opponents University of Central Florida and University of Memphis are first and third respectively in offensive yards per game. Tackling will have to improve if Tulane will have any hope of containing these explosive offenses. 

The defensive line has been by far the strongest unit for Tulane’s defense. Patrick Johnson and Cameron Sample have been getting after the quarterback this season, and Tulane fans will be hoping that a sustained pass rush will take some of the pressure off of Tulane’s struggling secondary.

On offense, Tulane has dramatically improved since Pratt took over for senior Keon Howard. Pratt has proved to be effective with his feet and provides an improved output through the air as well.

Yet again, Tulane is a strong, run-first offense. However, if Tulane wants to compete with high-scoring AAC offenses, they will need to get better results when they pass the football. 

Too often, opposing defenses are loading up against the run, taking away Tulane’s preferred method of moving the ball and daring them to throw. In defeats against Navy and the University of Houston, opposing defenses sold out against the run and Tulane was unable to punish them and be productive through the air.

Pratt showed promise against SMU and his continued improvement will be crucial for Tulane to reach that next level offensively. The development of the passing game is essential if Tulane hopes to end the season with some strong performances.

Moving forward, Tulane will hope to address these offensive and defensive issues and rattle off a few victories. Green Wave football will be back in action on Saturday, Oct. 24, at UCF.