Riptide’s Reflections | Tulane’s Knight’s Quest

Mark Keplinger and Jeremy Rosen

Tulane head coach Willie Fritz and UCF head coach Gus Malzahn. (Courtesy of Parker Waters)

Riptide’s Reflections is The Tulane Hullabaloo’s weekly column talking all things Tulane football. Join us every Wednesday for in-depth coverage, analysis and opinion of the Green Wave. 

Football is a humbling sport.

A team can gameplan as much as they want, but their plans may not come to fruition. Of course, not everything has to go right for a team to win a game. However, it is important to remember the reverse still applies: not everything has to go wrong to lose a game, and there is never just one reason why a team loses.

So, after a tough loss to the strong Central Florida Knights squad, it is important to analyze what actually went wrong on Saturday night and what the situation is from here with two regular season games remaining. Most importantly, we will look at what a potential race between a Bearcat, a Pelican and a Knight could look like.

The popular scapegoat for Tulane’s loss on Saturday night is the referees. The referees made some highly questionable decisions throughout the night, especially when they overturned a fumble Dorian Williams forced and when they picked up a flag for ineligible man downfield on UCF’s game winning drive. In both cases, UCF scored touchdowns on those drives, resulting in a massive 14-point swing.

However, this excuse lets Tulane off the hook for their mistakes. It also ignores that Tulane benefitted from calls of their own, including two phantom defensive pass interference calls in a second quarter touchdown drive. Without those calls, Tulane may not have scored a touchdown.

So yes, the referees could have been better, but the bad calls swung both ways. Tulane made plenty of mistakes of their own. Tulane receivers dropped five passes, including a touchdown. Several of Michael Pratt’s passes were off target and he did not even give his receivers a chance to catch the ball. The fumble on the exchange between Shaadie Clayton-Johnson and Pratt is another self-inflicted error. The offensive line did Pratt no favors as the quarterback was hit as he threw five times and sacked twice.

The silver lining in these mistakes is that they are easy to correct and the players know what they did wrong. For example, Tulane probably will not drop five passes in a game again.

UCF won primarily because they played better and their rushing attack was close to unstoppable. The Knights had 336 rushing yards, which includes their speedy quarterback John Rhys Plumlee having 176 ground yards and two scores. Tulane just was not prepared for that sort of speed and head coach Willie Fritz even admitted that he should have put his fastest player as scout team quarterback during practice.

Despite the plethora of mistakes and UCF’s great day on the ground, Tulane still managed to keep it close and only lost by one possession — the team will move on.

There are two games left in the regular season and as of right now, three teams are tied for first place in the American Athletic Conference: Tulane, UCF and Cincinnati. How the conference championship works is that the top two teams will play each other for the title with the higher seed hosting the game, which is on Dec. 3.

Starting with Tulane, they have two tough games coming up. They will first host Southern Methodist University, which is capable of offensive explosions such as the one against the Houston Cougars where they scored 77 points and quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for nine touchdowns. They will then travel to Cincinnati, who are one of the aforementioned top teams in the AAC.

Cincinnati has a slightly easier time as their last game before playing Tulane is a matchup against the 3-7 Temple Owls. It appears that the Tulane vs Cincinnati game might be for a berth in the AAC Championship game.

As for UCF, they will host the Naval Academy before traveling to South Florida. They should win both, but Navy might give them fits. The Midshipmen have the sixth best rush defense in college football and UCF relies heavily on their ground attack.

Regardless, it will be an exciting finale to the AAC season to see which squad deserves a berth to play for the title. Most important to remember is that each of these three teams control their own destinies and will play for the title if they win out.

Also, if you were curious about who would win in an actual race between a Bearcat, a Pelican and a Knight, it would obviously depend on distance and how much armor the knight is wearing. However going just on top speeds, the pelican would take first while the knight and the bearcat would come up behind.

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