Green Wave rolls onto home turf: Tulane prepares to play SMU in homecoming game

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Green Wave rolls onto home turf: Tulane prepares to play SMU in homecoming game

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Glen Cuiellette prepares to set up a play during Tulane's most recent home game against the University of Memphis. The Green Wave is currently ranked 3-4 overall, and 0-3 in the American Athletic Conference.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Glen Cuiellette prepares to set up a play during Tulane's most recent home game against the University of Memphis. The Green Wave is currently ranked 3-4 overall, and 0-3 in the American Athletic Conference.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Glen Cuiellette prepares to set up a play during Tulane's most recent home game against the University of Memphis. The Green Wave is currently ranked 3-4 overall, and 0-3 in the American Athletic Conference.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Glen Cuiellette prepares to set up a play during Tulane's most recent home game against the University of Memphis. The Green Wave is currently ranked 3-4 overall, and 0-3 in the American Athletic Conference.

Clara Harrington, Sports Editor

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As Tulane prepares for homecoming weekend by decorating buildings in olive and blue, lighting up McAlister Auditorium and setting up tailgate tents on the quad, the Green Wave (3-4, 0-3 American Athletic Conference) is ramping up to take on the SMU Mustangs (3-4, 1-2 AAC) on Oct. 28 at Yulman Stadium.

Tulane has yet to win a conference game this season, most recently falling to Tulsa 50-27 last weekend. The game ultimately demonstrated serious weaknesses in the Green Wave’s defense, with Tulane allowing the most points surrendered since joining the AAC three years ago.

“We’ve got to get back to playing the great, run-stopping defense that we played through the first six weeks,” head coach Willie Fritz said in a press conference.

Offensively, however, Tulane had what could be considered one of its best games of the season so far, rushing for 355 yards overall. Redshirt senior running back Josh Rounds led the Green Wave, racking up a total of 166 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown. Junior running back Dontrell Hilliard was close behind with 124 yards on 12 carries, scoring two touchdowns for Tulane.

Despite running the ball effectively, the team still faced problems throwing with accuracy. Starting quarterback Glen Cuiellette was only able to complete 15.8 percent of his passing attempts throughout the game, completing only 3-19 with no touchdowns.

“In the second half, we ran the ball very effectively,” Fritz said. “We had 350 plus yards rushing… We had a difficult time throwing the football, and obviously, we’ve got to get better in that situation, not just with quarterback accuracy but more importantly protection and route-running and those kinds of different things.”

In the same weekend, SMU triumphed over the No. 11 ranked University of Houston Cougars (6-2, 3-2 AAC) with a final score of 38-16. This win was huge for the Mustangs, a team that had not won against a team ranked No. 11 or higher since 1984. Although SMU freshman quarterback Ben Hicks completed just over 50 percent of his passes, he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another score.

“They’ve got a talented group of receivers, a good running back,” Fritz said. “The quarterback is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Defensively, I thought they did a nice job up front against [Houston].”

Both Tulane and SMU have been susceptible to fading in the second half of games. In SMU’s non-conference games against Baylor and TCU this season, the team showed strong efforts in the first half but was unable to maintain the same power after halftime. Last weekend, however, showed that both teams are capable of keeping a strong offense going into the second half of the game.

In looking ahead to this weekend’s game, the Green Wave coaching staff has been preparing consistently in hopes of giving its players the confidence they need to win. The team’s main focus is on correcting special teams’ mistakes that cost the team in the Tulsa game. In the past weekend’s game, a muffed punt by freshman wide receiver Darnell Mooney led to a Tulsa score.

“I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and I’ve never had this happen to me before,” Fritz said. “We have to find someone that’s competent in catching the ball… The game is difficult enough without having those types of mistakes.”

Hilliard and Rounds’ rushing game, ranked No. 16 in the nation, could prove to be a powerful force against SMU’s defense this weekend. That said, SMU has a more balanced offense due to a more consistent passing game. The Green Wave averages just 99 passing yards per game compared to SMU’s 239.8.

Though the game against Tulsa exposed weaknesses of Tulane’s defense, the Green Wave’s defense has regularly shown strength throughout this season’s games. In contrast, the Mustangs have often struggled defensively to stop opposing teams’ rushers.

SMU’s coming off a big conference win, along with Tulane’s home field advantage and homecoming hype, should make for a competitive game on Saturday. The Green Wave is currently favored to win by 2.5 points.

Kickoff for the homecoming game is at 3 p.m. ESPN3 will broadcast the game.