Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Retrospective (#5-#3)

#5 Tulane 28; Louisville 22 (October 17, 1998)

The undefeated 1998 Green Wave makes its second appearance on my list- and this game represents surely the most competitive, scary contest of the Perfect Season.

Tulane came in ranked for the first time since 1974. Accordingly, this game had “trap” written all over it: coming off an off-week, handling prosperity (an emotional win over Southern Miss), simply respecting a Louisville team they had throttled 64-33 the year before.

Things had however changed in Lousiville for the better. John L. Smith had taken over, Bobby Petrino was the OC, and Louisville was en route to the Motor City Bowl championship. Louisville was well along the path the Cardinals would take as Tulane's immediate successor as C-USA’s top, intriguing power. To that end, the great C-USA contemporary of Shaun King had taken over at quarterback full time. Chris Redman was well on his way to establishing Conference USA and Louisville season records for attempts (473), completions (309), yards (4,042) and touchdowns (29).

So when Brad Palazzo missed a 46-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining that would have given the Green Wave a nine-point lead, who wasn’t panicked? Redman was 41-of-55 passes for 477 yards as he took the final game snap from center at the Tulane 3 yard line. Fortunately, Tim Carter broke up that last pass.

Shaun King was a pedestrian 16-of-29 for 273 yards, but managed three TDs. JaJuan Dawson had 9 catches for 141 yards and a TD. But John L. Smith found a way to defend them- he has always been a sound coach. Hey, if Tulane needs a new coach, how about Coach Smith?

This game moved the regular season’s toughest opponent into the win column- and talk began in earnest for an undefeated campaign and possible Sugar Bowl bid.

1974: a 5-0 start followed by six straight losses. The first loss, at Georgia Tech, dropped the #18 Green Wave from most national rankings.

#4 Tulane 31; SMU 10 (September 24, 2005)

You could substitute any number of games in here- and still capture the deep humility the Tulane fan feels about this collection of kids whom kept trying to play despite their homes being destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Perhaps the first game after the ‘cane at Mississippi State? Or the first home game back in the Dome in 1996?

I had a good feeling about the 2005 team pre-season. I wrote:
They ought to be better than the five I-A teams left on the schedule- but again home games at neutral sites, a bad defense and potentially inconsistent quarterback situation probably means they lose one here. That squares the mark at 5-5, they crush SE Louisiana, and that gets’em to 6-5. And that is where I will hang my hat.
I wanted to play the games despite the destruction. I wrote:
But there is no shame in playing the games somewhere, trying to play them in Louisiana, striving to make them a small event in the restoration of the city. After 9/11 in New York, the tribulation of the Mets and the Yankees, the Giants and the Jets, were completely unimportant. New York was not exactly glad to have them back- but maybe we also wanted the games again. Honestly. Try and play them.
But coming in to this game, so soon after the despicable "shut it down" athletic review, there was Doubt.

The game was no great shakes
- a fortunately quick game on a brutal hot day. SMU was terrible: a "-4" underdog to the literally washed out Wave, managed 127 yards of offense. Tulane punished them physically (nine sacks!), kept the ball for 40 minutes. Lester Ricard was 22 of 34 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Matt Forte, Jovon Jackson and Ray Boudreaux rushed for 150-ish yards. It was an impressive chastisement given by a Tulane team that probably could have flirted with .500 given any luck or home games.

But the idea, the fact of the victory, was important. The “shut football down” forces still exist- but they fortunately probably reached their apex about two minutes before kick-off.

This game was covered on the blog here.

#3 Tulane 21; Southern Mississippi 7 (October 3, 1998)

Some wins are just pure relief- and this tops that kind of list. As entry number five above alludes, the Tommy Bowden years were a brief interlude between the reigns of Southern Miss and Louisville.

But 1997, and the great start to 1998, had the Tulane fan itching for a showdown with perennial tormentor Jeff Bower. We at Tulane believed in Bower- and for good reason, he ran a very good, play-anyone program. We also believed we owed him a whipping. Then Shaun King went and broke his left wrist the week prior versus Navy.

Shaun did play (as did back-up Jeff Curtis)- but the offense struggled all day to move the bigger, physical, always well-coached Southern Miss defense. So it really was Tulane’s defensive backfield (and defense in general) that won this game. Tim Carter forced one time annoying Philadelphia Eagle Todd Pinkston to fumble at the goal line. Alphonso Roundtree then returned a pick for the key first score- allowing the Wave to play from ahead and protect King. It also helped that really underrated USM quarterback Lee Roberts probably had his worst day as a collegian (four interceptions).

There is no perfect season without this big win over the early League’s best program. USM was our ever growing League rival- and there was and is a satisfaction that the early C-USA signature season campaign will always be Tulane and not our big brother conference rival.