SEPTEMBER 24, 2017
Reporting on-site by FTW writer Sam Vancini
In a battle where the Army Black Knights more than doubled the Green Wave's time of possession, a hammer dropping final drive that ended in a Jonathan Banks touchdown was enough to seal a 21-17 victory for Tulane.
On quite a few levels -- but especially due to this game's implications for bowl season and the Wave's recent history with letting close games slip away -- this win energized the Tulane fan base.
Now with a week off ahead (and a critical one, might I add, with injuries to heal from on both sides of the ball) before facing a struggling Tulsa, Tulane is in the driver's seat to take control of their season. Here's how they got there.
The Green Wave got the exact start it was looking for. After Governor John Bel Edwards -- a West Point graduate -- was on the field for the coin toss, Tulane got the ball to start, and Dontrell Hilliard immediately broke away for a touchdown:
It was easy to think that today was going to go Tulane's way, but Army rebounded as the teams traded the lead back-and-forth until the clock ran out.
On the surface, Tulane was slightly outgained 371 - 347 yards by Army in the box score, which would be a very respectable 6.7 yards per play for the Green Wave. However, the reality of the game was much different.
Throughout the first half (and I guess you could say the second half as well, as the Wave barely touched the ball and only got to run seven plays in the 3rd quarter...), Tulane never really saw a drive form. Instead, they saw their star backs pounce on seams for two first half touchdowns, as Sherman Badie blew Army defenders away after he croossed the second level:
Classic Badie run right there, folks. Gets to the second level, turns on the boosters, and he's gone. Green Wave back on top. pic.twitter.com/ujs7ezWFIV— Fear the Wave (@FearTheWaveBlog) September 23, 2017
While Tulane went to the locker room up 14-7, Army seriously threatened throughout the second half. After a painfully long drive that took over most of the 3rd quarter, the Black Knights were thwarted in the red zone when Donnie Lewis pulled in an interception from QB Ahmad Bradshaw:
That was a big win for the D -- in fact, Army outgained Tulane 118-4 yards in 3Q and walked away with zero points -- but Army would strike for a go-ahead score and leave the Green Wave with about five minutes to work late in the 4th quarter.
With a 17-14 deficit, Tulane still had not converted on a single third down on a hot day at Yulman, which set the stage for Jonathan Banks to turn the game around.
What followed was a gritty, game-changing drive as Banks led the Green Wave offense to the checkerboards while converting two fourth downs in the process.
On top of that, he was forced to exit for a play after an improvised run -- a hallmark of this drive -- resulted in a first down as well as a big hit from the Black Knights defender.
Banks would sit for a play while freshman Khalil McClain came in for a snap. Banks would return, and the drive was officially on.
Perhaps no moment came with more tension than the 4th and 1 decision facing Coach Fritz when the Wave was stopped barely short on the Army 6. Facing a 17-14 deficit and playing at home, the conventional coaching logic was to take the points and survive until overtime. Steamboat Willie had no such plans, as he said after the game that he wasn't there to play in overtime:
"To be honest I didn't feel like playing in overtime"- Fritz pic.twitter.com/nRvTlGbfBQ— Fear the Wave (@FearTheWaveBlog) September 23, 2017
That decision was rewarded, not only with a Green Wave first down, but with Banks doing what he did best on the drive and finding his opportunity to strike for the game winning touchdown:
Jonathan Banks left it all on the field that drive. Incredible toughness on this drive. 21-17 Tulane. Roll Wave. pic.twitter.com/cLZY1xgs4G— Fear the Wave (@FearTheWaveBlog) September 23, 2017
The Kansas State transfer who shined in his opener at Yulman once again walked off with the ending he wanted.
It wasn't a perfect game by any stretch. Tulane's 2-11 third down performance and struggles up front, driven in part by the absence of Ade Aruna as well as the wear and tear of this game, will be coachable points in the bye week.
That being said, Tulane broke through the mold of what we have come to expect from Green Wave teams in recent years: they took victory from the jaws of defeat, instead of the other way around.
As we like to say on Twitter, the Banks has opened, and we're excited to see what he can do with a couple more weeks to heal. Roll Wave.
Check out the moment photographer Parker Waters captured after the win: