Pratt, defense lead Tulane to big win over East Carolina

Scott Houtkin, Contributing Writer

The Green Wave kept it rolling on Saturday, taking a decisive victory over conference rival East Carolina at home with a final score of 24-9. Michael Pratt put together his best performance of the season, and Tulane’s defense shut the Pirates’ offense out in the second half. After a disappointing loss to Southern Mississippi on Sept. 24, Tulane has responded in a big way with back-to-back wins over two of the best football teams in the conference — Houston and East Carolina. 

Michael Pratt was fantastic, as he went 27 for 34 passing for a season-best 326 yards and three total touchdowns. He was incredibly efficient with nearly an 80% completion percentage and no interceptions. Pratt’s accuracy on deep passes was the most impressive part of his playing, as he completed an astounding six passes of 20 or more yards to four different receivers. After missing last week’s game with an injury to his throwing shoulder, Pratt looked sharp upon his return.

With the running game struggling and the offense needing a spark, Duece Watts delivered. In the third quarter with just a five-point lead, Watts corralled a 35-yard strike coming across the field from Pratt. On the very next play, Watts sped down the sideline and, over the outstretched arms of his defender, caught a 44-yard pass from Pratt for the touchdown. 

The incredible catch stunned the ECU fans in attendance, while the Tulanians roared. After the game, head coach Willie Fritz talked about Watts’ catch. He said, “We took a shot down the sideline to [Watts], and we gotta make some of those plays. And we feel like Duece can win his share of 50/50 balls, and he won that one. That was a tough catch, and he did a great job of catching and staying in bounds and scoring.” 

On the defensive side, everything was clicking, especially in the second half. After a hard-fought first half that went back and forth, the Tulane defense anchored down and kept fifth-year quarterback Holton Ahlers and the ECU offense in check. After a strong start from Ahlers in the first half, the Tulane defense gave up no points while intercepting Ahlers twice in the second half. 

The first big play by the defense was in the third quarter with ECU driving. Looking to retake the lead, Ahlers took a shot toward the end zone, but Tulane safety Larry Brooks leaped up and intercepted the pass. Brooks’ interception took away the Pirates’ momentum and set up Tulane’s ensuing drive resulting in the Watts’ touchdown and giving the Wave a two-score lead. 

The second interception came in the fourth quarter. With Tulane holding a 21-9 lead, ECU was driving in the hopes of making it a one-score deficit. However, before they could get into a rhythm, Ahlers fired a pass across the middle of the field. It was deflected up in the air and fell into the arms of Tulane safety Macon Clark. Tulane averted another momentum swing for ECU and set up their offense with good field position. Tulane’s offense was able to capitalize again off the ECU turnover with a field goal that extended their lead to 24-9 and ultimately put the game out of reach.

After two wins all last season, the Green Wave is just one win away from becoming bowl-eligible and is on the cusp of making the college football AP Top 25 rankings for the first time since 1998. Tulane moves to 5-1 on the season and starts 2-0 in American Athletic Conference play. 

After the huge win, Watts was asked about his confidence in the team saying it is, “through the ceiling, to be honest with you, it’s through the ceiling. We are all moving as one right now. I mean the defense, they balling, the offense has been coming along. We’re looking good.”

Tulane plays on the road against the South Florida Bulls this Saturday at 3 p.m. CST at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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