NOVEMBER 11, 2018

Tulane wins its first Homecoming since 2013 and becomes co-leader of the AAC West

Much like the Pirates of the Caribbean, the ECU Pirates were defeated by the Mooney

By JP Gooderham

With 48 seconds left in the ballgame, the scene in Yulman Stadium was all too familiar.

Tulane, seemingly with the game in hand since going up 14-3 with 5:03 left in the first half, was in truth defending a 6-point lead, just a breakdown in coverage away from the latest in a long line of Homecoming nightmares.

On a cold night in New Orleans, the Green Wave Defense -- the foundation of this three-game winning streak -- said not today. While there was some added drama when the referees incorrectly ruled a long pass from ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers complete... potenitally putting the Pirates in striking distance late in the 4th quarter, the pleas of Tulane fans watching the replay were answered: a Pirate cleat had dragged across the sideline first, and Homecoming belonged to the Green Wave for the first time since 2013.

While Ahlers only threw one pick, it sure felt like the Wave Defense could have rung up the freshman quarteback for five or six interceptions throughout the night. As Guerry points out, the Green Wave not only set an NCAA high for pass breakups this season with 20... that's the most in NCAA history since the stat was started in 2000:

On the offensive side of the ball, the boom and bust nature of this offense continued, with undefeated starter Justin McMillan finding paydirt with touchdowns to Darnell Mooney (86 yards, 2nd play of the drive), Terren Encalade (73 yards, 6th play of the drive), and then Mooney again in the 2nd half (79 yards, 1st play of the drive).

Overall, ECU leveraged its speed to do a much better job than USF in defending the run, holding the Green Wave to 3.3 yards per carry, with Darius Bradwell and Corey Dauphine getting 19 and 17 carries respectively. For Dauphine, while he did not find the checkerboards as he is prone to do, Wave fans can be happy to see his third straight game with over 15 rushing attempts.

Mooney, who has delivered several big games this year, rode a 217 yard performance with two touchdowns to increase his season total to a haul of 829 yards, putting a 1,000 yard campaign in play.

Above all, in my view, the Green Wave defense delivered in a big way to keep the freshman Ahlers uncomfortable all night, finishing with a 21 for 67 (31%) stat line and taking five sacks in the process. That's a significant step back from his last two starts, passing for 55% against both UCF and Memphis in his first two weeks as QB1 for the Pirates.

Unfortunately, breaking a Homecoming losing streak and rising to co-lead the AAC West had to come with some bad news as well: Patrick Johnson, a standout this year, was hit with a targeting call that will lead to a suspension for the first half next week at Houston. That's a bad break for a Wave Defense already dealing with some banged up personnel, as Johnson has been outstanding throughout 2018.

Let's get to the big picture.

Big Picture: Welcome to AAC Westworld

I know everyone is talking about the b-word and such, but how about Tulane becoming a co-leader of the AAC West for the first time in program history.

With four wins through the first six conference games, Tulane has already set its school high for AAC wins, with two more shots to the add to that title.

Green Wave great Nico Marley, who should be on staff as an official motivator for all games going forward, said as much in his pregame talk to the team:

As much talk as there has been about getting to six, Marley righly challenges the team to focus instead on getting to seven wins.

And doing so would be a huge deal.

Houston, SMU, and Tulane are all now tied for the AAC West. Here are the remaining schedules:

Houston:
- vs. Tulane
- @ Memphis

SMU:
- vs. Memphis
- @ Tulsa

Tulane:
- @ Houston
- Navy (Trident Trophy)

With that in mind, the Mustangs certainly have the best road and control their own destiny, with wins (and H2H tiebreakers) over the Cougars and Wave. Memphis would break this thing open for the other teams, should they knock off SMU next week.

Tulane will have the national game on Thursday night against Houston on ESPN. The Cougars, who fell in Yulman last year to set up a bowl run that did not come to be, are fighting a tailspin right now after dropping to Temple last night.

To make matters worse, destroyer of worlds Ed Oliver has been out since the Navy game when he suffered this brutal "block."

He didn't dress last night, and it isn't inconveivable to think that Oliver could be out once again. That would certainly be a break, as the Cougars have taken a huge step back defensively while giving up 7 rushing touchdowns last night against the Owls of Temple.

This is a massive game for Tulane against a Houston team that was challenging for a NY6 berth before this slide. No doubt both teams will be taking this one seriously in a short week, and we're about to see a big time battle in front of a national television audience.

What was Tweeted

No Tulane player had experienced a Homecoming win at Yulman before last night.

And they were hyped:

FTW writer and team ambassador Janny Meza used his new shirt to make connections for our rising media juggernaut. T-Shirts will be on sale for everyone this week.

Shout out to everyone who had them on at the tailgate yesterday.

Getting closer...

Shout out to everyone who braved the cold for the first Happy Homecoming in the stadium. On to Beat Houston week. Stay Angry, my friends.