Thursday, July 01, 2010

Retrospective (#10-#6)

#10 Tulane 64; Louisville 33 (October 11, 1997)

The underrated PJ Franklin had seven catches for 106 yards-and Brad Palazzo had the best day ever for a Tulane kicker (5FGs, 7XPs). Add that up, Tulane scored an astonishing twelve times.

Some might slide the previous week’s 41-0 Dome humiliation of Army in here. I don’t know- both Army and Louisville were pretty bad in 1997. School was still definitely out on the Bowden experiment, even after the good Syracuse effort (see Retrospective Two), Tulane needed the Army win to square the mark at 2-2. There were maybe 8-9K at that Army game too- so folks were not yet sold.

But this game sold a lot of us. After this second successive week of extreme scoring, the rise of cartoon number C-USA football can be traced right here, right to this pair of C-USA games. Again, the Wave scored twelve times! Twelve!

The new C-USA was born on this day, given birth by the first true read-and-react quarterback (Shaun King) and Tommy Bowden- a guy who figured out the way to circumvent the USM style of brawn was to go after the weakest spot on the field in C-USA: defensive backs.

#9 Tulane 31; Southern Mississippi 10 (November 23, 2002)

We are pretty late in this list to finally be including a win by the nifty 2002 Hawai’i Bowl Champions. Perhaps indicative of the entire Tulane community, a clutch that has never really embraced this group as much as other winning Tulane teams.

This outfit really rounded out in the second half of the season- a four game winning streak mid-season turned the campaign around. Unfortunately, a 2-3 start (including a horrid beat down at Texas) had already emptied the Dome, and the team never rekindled a real in-season interest. A bad late home loss to Army did not help much. So a smallish (12-15K?) crowd filed in to see the finale to see the typical Jeff Bower’s quality 6-4, play anyone anywhere, Southern Miss squad.

After the bad Army loss, the Wave was playing for its post-season life in front of a low confidence, mixed fan base crowd- and responded impressively. Tulane routed Southern Miss. Losman had a quite day. Lynaris Elpheage scored a touchdown (on offense!) and had a key interception the Wave turned into points. And the old reliable Mwelde Moore had just under 200 yards of offense. Bottom line, Tulane ran it down their throats (52 attempts-226 yards) and possessed the ball forever. Just how often have we seen Tulane just physically whip another outfit?

And it got this team a Bowl bid to a fun game versus a fun opponent- not to be counted lightly.

#8 Tulane 56; Southwestern Louisiana 0 (November 1, 1997)

This might be a surprise entry to some, but anyone who lived through this era of Tulane football knows this game was a huge, huge deal.

One of the utter aggravations, and there were many, about the Teevins era (and the end of the Davis term), were the persistent home losses (some real ugly) to USL: 48-6 (1990), 36-15 (1993), 32-28 (1995).

The Tommy Bowden experiment was increasingly validated. Sure, the Wave was a nice 4-3, a welcome change from the routine Teevins’ debacles. And yes, 1997 was a down year for a Nelson Stokely team that had played .500 overall the past two seasons (plus a win over Texas A&M in 1997). But again, USL was the real tangible symbol of the depths that Tulane had fallen. When we complained in the parking lots before the game, it was the utter lack of success vis-à-vis USL that stung the most. The Tulane fan had not yet come to expect to absolutely crush second tier programs- and here, going on the road...

And yet, the crushing began. Just a brutal whipping: better athletes, better coaching- and further left no doubt that this Tulane team was a huge jump ahead of the past witlessness. It was here the talk, the buzz, began in earnest. A real nice, but mostly overlooked Tulane RB, Jamaican Dartez ran for like a zillion yards (18-167)- one of seven 100+ yard rushing days in his career.

#7 LSU 41; Tulane 36 (November 21, 1987)

If you “believe” in college football, this game has to belong on the list.

Mike Archer brought a super LSU team into the Dome- only a loss to Alabama kept them from a national championship. And Mack Brown had completed his turnaround, had a roster full of I-A talent peaking emotionally here. The result was an utter college football classic. The Wave fought them hammer and tongs- taking the lead late, then losing in the final minute after LSU converted two outrageous fourth downs. Terrence Jones played his best game as a Tulanian: 27-of-40, 316 yards, 3 TD.

It was just a wonderful college experience. There is an axiom in sports that occasionally no one deserves to lose- and this was just such an affair. It also felt like a game you see on television from the Swamp or Happy Valley or South Bend. The Dome was full (70K plus) and loud and electric with a goodly contingent of fans from both schools- like the Red River shootout sort of vibe. The only time in my two decades plus following Tulane football did it feel complete, unadulterated big time: fans, level of play, juice, a true rivalry game that lived up to its name.

In my experience, only Perry Clark and Mack Brown have achieved the total game day experience. I miss that.

Last time I ever felt I was at a Tulane big-time football game like you see on television.

#6 Tulane 63; Louisiana Tech 30 (November 26, 1998)

Some might have this game higher- the completion of the 1998 undefeated regular season. Very fair.

But I kept it out of the top five (which will obviously still be littered with 1998 games I feel of more competitive merit) because, while it was a great celebration in front of a great crowd, the game stunk.

Heck, the Wave did not punt. Tony Converse, bless his heart, went for 24 rushes, 182 yards, four TDs. The four TDs might still be a record. Shaun King hammered home another three TDs passing (19 for 26, 330 yards), targeting Kerwin Cook (9 receptions-171 yards, 2 TDs).

Really, it was like an exhibition. Louisiana Tech mounted no serious opposition, the Tulane defense was a little bored, the fans just acted grateful. Probably the night I saw the most Tulane fans (maybe 35K) in the Dome, rather than attendance pumped up by the visiting draw.