Tulane football dominates UMass in season opener

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Tulane football dominated in their 2022 season opener with a 42-10 victory over the Massachusetts Minuteman. The team outclassed UMass in every facet of play, but running back, Tyjae Spears was particularly impressive. By the end of the game, third- and fourth-string players were getting snaps in the fourth quarter.

“We were able to play a lot of guys … 70 or 80 guys at least I think so that’s good also. A lot of these guys work extremely hard so it’s great they had the opportunity to play some Division I college football,” Head Coach Willie Fritz said.

Despite the light drizzle and the partially flooded streets, Tulane students enthusiastically came out and packed the student section. After forcing a punt from the visitors to start the game, Jha’Quan Jackson’s good punt return set up the Green Wave in prime field position at the UMass 31. Five plays later, Spears punched in a touchdown from a yard out.

Following a Tulane turnover on downs, the Minutemen got on the board. The Minutemen rotated two quarterbacks throughout the game: Brady Olson for passing downs and Gino Campiotti came in for running scenarios. However, it was Campiotti’s strong running that scored UMass’ lone touchdown of the day. 

Pratt responded well with a long drive ending in a touchdown. This drive included a beautiful 34-yard throw from Pratt to Jackson on fourth-and-one to set up the Green Wave at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Spears again ran it in for the score. 

After safety Macon Clark picked off Olson, Tulane struck again. Pratt quickly completed a 23-yard strike to Shae Wyatt before a quarterback scramble got them inside the five yard line. Spears, lining up in the wildcat formation, ran the ball in untouched for his third touchdown of the day.

UMass ended the first half with a long drive but was stopped at the goal line and settled for a short field goal instead, cutting the lead to 21-10 at the half.

The Green Wave began the second half with the ball and quickly marched down the field, thanks in large part due to a 27-yard catch and run from Spears. On third-and-one at the UMass 20-yard line, Pratt attempted a quarterback sneak to pick up the yard. However, a massive hole opened up for him, and the quarterback trotted into the endzone. 

When talking about the touchdown, Pratt, with a slight chuckle, said “I wasn’t necessarily expecting to break free, I tapped Sincere [Haynesworth] on the side I was gonna go to since I saw there was a hole, but I didn’t think it was going to open up like that by any means. I mean it worked out!”

Following a UMass three and out, Jackson returned the punt for a touchdown, although this was called back due to a holding penalty. However, this only delayed the inevitable, as Pratt once again marched the offense down the field before finding Duece Watts in the endzone for a 31-yard touchdown pass. 

In the subsequent UMass possession, Jarius Monroe intercepted an underthrown ball, and his return gave Tulane excellent field position. Lawrence Keys III finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown catch, which put the Green Wave up 42-10 with a full quarter left to play. 

From here, Fritz began rotating who was playing, including replacing Pratt at quarterback with Justin Ibieta. Tulane would lose a fumble late in the fourth quarter but got one more interception, this time by linebacker Corey Platt.

Tyjae Spears led Tulane’s offense with 89 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. Pratt was 12-20 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 55 yards rushing.  Linebacker Dorian WIlliams led the team in tackles with nine solo tackles and 10 total.

When asked about how good the win felt especially after the struggles the team had last season, Coach Fritz said, “Great. Fantastic. I don’t take any of them for granted.”

Tulane will host the Alcorn State Braves at Yulman Stadium on Sept. 10 at 6pm. The Braves fell to Stephen F. Austin 31-27 in their season opener.