Tulane reached a lot of historical firsts last season, but their 31-21 victory against Memphis felt most significant to the program through three seasons. The goal remains 1-0. But the long term vision of sustaining success was solidified in their win on the road. 

The Green Wave haven’t won in Memphis since the undefeated 1998 season. They also haven’t lost an away game since their final loss in the 2-10 year at Liberty Stadium. It’s highly likely the 2022 Tulane team beats the Tigers on the road; the Wave left no room for hypotheticals on Friday night. 

Memphis had the most balanced offense the Wave have faced this season. They gained 45 yards on the ground. The secondary faced their biggest test and didn’t stray. They certainly faltered working through the struggles of man coverage on both sides of the ball. 

The response following halftime was 21 unanswered points after the Tigers’ opening drive. 

Tulane ran the table last season primarily in zone coverage. Rather than keep the plays in front of them, this year’s defense has a notable identity of playmakers. Lance Robinson is tied first in the nation with 4 interceptions; more impressive are the points off turnovers. The Wave have won 13 of the last 14 games they forced a turnover. Tulane scored 14 points on Friday off interceptions by Robinson and Kam Pedescleaux. 

Despite second quarter struggles, there was never a sense of panic on the sidelines. I spent substantial time in the defensive back meetings as the game unfolded. Rather than switch things up, defensive coordinator Shiel Wood and his staff stuck to their belief in the players. They eventually shut off the route tree of the opposing slot receiver. The linebacker corp of Tyler Grubbs and Jesus Machado were adaptable; Grubbs especially stuck out in downfield coverage. The DB room continued to work through struggles through leaders and responsiveness to coaching. Despite losing Angelo Anderson, the defensive line has benefitted from depth and talent that stop opposing offenses in their tracks. 

It’s worth mentioning that Tulane’s offense had a slow start last season, one headlined by Tyjae Spears. The defense held it down until the Wave became bowl eligible against USF. A unit that lost two defensive captains and five starters across the middle of the field has retained that identity. That the loss of Spears has been entirely absorbed by the electric play of Makhi Hughes can’t be understated. 

Teams usually can’t overcome adversity on both sides of the ball. Tulane proved different. The wide receivers have redefined speed. The offense can afford to work out kinks when headlined by Michael Pratt and his clutch play, effects from injury aside. Defenses will be tested to limits more often than not. 

Tulane’s victory illustrated the power of sticking through struggles to sustain long-term program success. History warned of the difficulties. The culture instilled by the program last season has cemented a legacy that paves an unprecedented path to championships for Green Wave football. 

Written by Maddy Hudak