Tulane’s defense of their conference title that culminated in a 35-23 victory against the UAB Blazers illustrated one word: grit. The best teams win despite not playing their best football. 1-0 doesn’t care how you got there.

The 20-14 deficit for the Wave at halftime was the first time they trailed to start the third quarter. The defense conceded one field goal thereafter. Of the 95 yards gained on the ground by UAB’s Isaiah Jacobs – the first rusher over 50 yards all season – 61 came in the first half. Through the first four games, Tulane allowed 6-of-10 fourth down conversions. They made two stops on three attempts by the Blazers.

Determination On Display

The highest completion percentage by a quarterback against the Wave secondary did not include a passing touchdown by Jacob Zeno. After one of UAB’s two rushing touchdowns, the Voice of the Wave, Corey Gloor, asked me if the sideline seemed dejected. I was in the midst of watching defensive backs Lance Robinson and DJ Douglas gather the entire defense in a huddle. The coaches stood back silently as Robinson spoke. “This is our conference. We don’t fold.”

Running back Makhi Hughes had four carries for 17 yards at halftime. He ended the game as the first to record over 100 yards since Tyjae Spears with a career-high 123 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. There’s your RB1.

The quarterback with the most passing touchdowns in Tulane history had seven completions by halftime. Much like in the gutsy call against Kansas State, Michael Pratt put the game on ice with his 76th touchdown pass to Lawrence Keys – on 4th
and 9 at UAB’s 32.

Sense of Urgency

Following the players into the locker room tunnel at halftime, I caught center Sincere Haynesworth re-focusing his teammates. Reminding them they only have 12 guaranteed opportunities – that’s it – and they’re not going to let this one go to waste. Nearly verbatim to what former linebacker Nick Anderson shared with me of his speech in their captain-led PowerPoint presentation of the conference trophy the January following the 2-10 season.

Coaches emphasize the importance of early season game film to analyze opponent tendencies. In a conference with six new programs and new head coaches for seven of the 14 AAC teams, it’s all but essential. One could say the same about the emergence of Tulane’s identity in their first conference victory. Firmness in mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship.

The true meaning of grit.