Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Bad Weekend

This has been a tough weekend so far at Frank Helps You Think It All Out. The Irish were oh-so-agoninzing close to getting it done. Penn State costs itself a great chance at a Rose Bowl by spitting the bit late like four times. Fortunately for my heart, Tulane merely got blasted late.

Look, UTEP is better than Tulane. That team has a good chance to win the League, has flirted with the Top 25- and is plenty good enough to go on the road and spank a mediocre C-USA team late.

Obviously, there was a lot working against Tulane here- the short week particularly. Accordingly, throw out the last quarter. The only “effort” ding is right before the end of the first half. Tulane scores to pull within three- the defense forces a brisk stop- and Tulane promptly rolls out three of the most disheartening minutes in awhile. You cannot fight all half long- and then play three minutes where:

- you promptly give UTEP the opportunity to go back up ten by fumbling a punt- setting them up to move thirty or so yards to score, which they promptly do, in ten seconds.

- then your quarterback (photos right) immediately commits his umpteenth brutal turnover in the red zone. Ricard doesn’t really commit that many turnovers considering how much he is asked to handle the ball- but is it me or does every single one suck at the soul? Every turnover is a killer with this guy- he might be the unluckiest guy playing QB in I-A.

Tulane did not lose the game there- as Ricard played, by far, his best game of the season. Ricard picked them right up off the deck to start the second half- after the defense provided them with another good stop to begin play. But the Wave ran out of gas at the near the end of three quarters. The turnovers were why they lost, but I’m pretty sure the short-week/off-week combination was the reason it got away from them at the end.

But, you know, I thought Tulane played their best “team-wide” 40-minutes of the season last night.

Okay, that is sort of ridiculous: “40 minutes Frank?” But the defense was pretty good again- particularly the front seven. Yes, UTEP hung a pretty good number on them- but only half of those points were not the result of field position inside the Tulane 40, garbage time, or a turnover resulting instantly to a direct score. This is C-USA, where good offenses operating efficiently or with good field position can score four-five times even on a pretty good defense- see Tulane last year on numerous occasions: TCU, Navy, UAB.

But to me, the play of Ricard and the offense was heartening. For the first time really- Tulane looked coherent for stretches and drives- as opposed to a bunch of strangers. Okay, maybe not all the time or for a whole game. The turnovers and blah tailbacks mean Tulane will always struggle to both be consistent & generate the number of points they “deserve” from their offensive totals.

But it is hard to dispute that for the first 40 minutes, the line protected well, receivers got open, then caught the ball and generated big YAC, the crowd was polite, the environment unthreatening- and maybe, just maybe, Ricard saw the Yellow Submarine.

Are there more stirring words to the Tulane fan? The Yellow Submarine! We know Ricard puts up big numbers when comfortable and getting help. Period. If I was coaching at Central Florida- I’d be nervous. Tulane will be playing to save its season- so you can anticipate a big, huge effort from the defense. And if the offense really is showing signs of life. Be honest, there was a smattering of okay against Houston and a real pulse last night….

Let’s put it this way, if the Tulane community is gloomy and frustrated- and I am the one who can’t wait to play the next game- UCF is in big trouble. This UTEP game was free one. Even if you had Tulane winning seven, eight or nine- this was one you thought they’d probably lose, right?

Don’t quit. The Wave is getting it together on offense and the defense competes. Tulane is gonna win six and could get seven with a break at Navy. And remember, you heard it hear first amid the groaning.