Riptide’s Reflections | Tale of two halves

Jeremy Rosen and Mark Keplinger

Parker Waters

The Tulane Homecoming football game against the Memphis Tigers was one for the books. WIth a record breaking 30,100 people in the stands, an electric punt return touchdown by Jha’Quan Jackson and a 35-point lead by halftime, it looked like the Green Wave sealed the deal on a dominant victory. However, the team that came back on the field for the second half looked completely different from the team in the first half.

The same offense that managed to score five touchdowns in the first half with relative ease could only muster up a field goal in the second half. The suffocating defense that gave up zero points in the first half got torched for four touchdowns after halftime. It felt like the Green Wave and the Tigers just swapped uniforms in the locker rooms. 

With a 35-0 lead going into halftime, it made sense for the team to try to slow the pace down and play it safe. A five-score lead is next to impossible to overcome, so why take any risks? Just hold onto the ball and run the clock down. The offense shifted to an extremely run-heavy gameplan, getting completely away from the solid passing game. The offense was pretty evenly split between the pass and the run game in the first two quarters. Michael Pratt threw 21 times for 146 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters, while Tyjae Spears and the other running backs accumulated 102 yards on the ground.

The offense was completely non-existent when they returned to the field for the third quarter. They were only able to get 13 yards of total offense, all coming from Spears’ rushing attempts. Pratt could only make one completion to Lawrence Keys III, who promptly got tackled for a one yard loss. Memphis went on three scoring drives in the quarter that drained the clock, giving Tulane only two opportunities with the ball. The first drive was a quick three-and-out, and the second drive ended with Pratt getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a fourth down attempt.

Pratt didn’t do much more in the fourth quarter, only throwing the ball five times for just 13 yards. The offense mostly ran through Spears, who was the only player who could muster up any form of offense in the second half. Pratt handed the ball off to him 11 times in the final quarter for 72 yards. Spears’ efforts on the ground gave Valentino Ambrosio the opportunity to kick the 25-yard field goal.

The defense was similarly off after halftime. The Green Wave defense didn’t give up any easy yards, and the Tigers only managed to get 84 yards of total offense. The interception by Larry Brooks stifled their passing attack before they could do any damage in the first half. 

Tulane’s players looked like shells of themselves after halftime. The conservative play calling allowed the Tigers to slowly pick away at the defense through the air. Memphis quarterback Sam Henigan threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in just the second half. A deep 55-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Lewis made it a two-score game. 

Head coach Willie Fritz opened up the postgame press conference with a blunt “real good first half, real bad second half.” He talked about how he regretted changing up the game plan in the second half, referencing the failed fourth down attempt in the third quarter.

The team was able to get away with the poor second half performance this time, but they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas against the tougher opponents later on their schedule. The matchups against the University of Central Florida and Cincinnati will be critical in determining Tulane’s position in the American Athletic Conference and the polls. It will be up to Coach Fritz and the coaching staff to clean up mental errors during the bye week before they return to action.

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