Even More Progress
It took forty games and more than three years, but Bob Toledo has a big win.
It has been clear from the get go that this is Tulane’s best team of the Toledo era. Finally, Tulane was able to turn the good showings, the moral victories, of Mississippi and Houston into a tangible win. Frankly, if you play enough one score games late, it will be someone else’s turn to mess up a trick play, get their quarterback hurt and make a dumb throw in a big spot.
Of course, when the “rent-a-win” refuses to lie down, there will be some unhappiness:
I thought that last year's defeat to a vastly inferior Syracuse team would stand for a while as the worst post-rebuilding loss of Greg Schiano's tenure at Rutgers. Yesterday's defeat shattered that assumption, and stands alone as a crushing reality check that there is something uniquely and inherently wrong and flawed about this year's Scarlet Knight team. That is the inescapable conclusion when you lose at home to an opponent who has looked rather bad up to this point, and did nothing yesterday to indicate otherwise.Gosh. Is Tulane better than Rutgers? I don’t know. Did Tulane play well enough to win one of the last three games? Yeah. Yeah, Tulane did. We’re not apologizing.
The Tulane game did not have the caveats that Syracuse provided. It was at home, and Tulane does not have a bizarre and inexplicable obsession with demonizing Rutgers as a propaganda ploy. More importantly, Syracuse actively won their victory through superior game planning and execution that day. While I normally would never try to disparage or diminish the other team's contributions in a loss (or to the contrary, solely credit internal factors in a victory), Tulane clearly did nothing of note all game beyond not being a complete and utter train wreck.
It also isn’t fair. Tulane is increasingly “respectable”, to use a characterization I used last week- particularly the defense. I don’t think it is even arguable anymore. It has four guys, up from zero the previous two campaigns, who could be all C-USA defensive selections: Moses (this week's C-USA player of the week), Ponce de Leon, Mackey, Smith*. It is quite possible for the Green Wave to hold a bad BCS offense, with further quarterback issues, to a pair of touchdowns.
QB Ryan Griffin played well too. It is hard to label Tulane as a passive participant when the most important player on a spread offense has a solid day- out-playing his Rutgers counterparts. I mean, this is what spread quarterbacking looks like when faced with a defense that arguably has better players: keep the completion percentage high, no turnovers. Griffin did not win the game, but he did not lose it either. He isn't going to throw for 300 yards against Rutgers. When faced with playing a game in the teens, winner being the team with the fewest errors- and your quarterback doesn’t make any... he has done his job. Ask Rutgers if they'd like that last throw back? It was a game where one bad throw makes a difference. Tulane's did not make it. They win. Fair is fair.
Plus, you know, even as a rent-a-win, Tulane is allowed to make plays too. The trick pass Tulane rolled out there was a slick play utilizing team strengths. Tulane has surplus quarterback recruits. To get these athletes on the field, the Wave has found new skill positions for them. Further, Tulane used these surplus quarterback assets in a creative matter- getting the ball to wide out/reserve quarterback and having him execute a good throw. That is good coaching at a tactical level (play execution) and the strategic level (trickeration with an underlying agenda: finding a way to use hidden, secondary assets in a surprise manner).
That was a good play, one of the the game’s two turning points. The other was the Rutgers quarterback being knocked out of the game. Both those plays were about Tulane as the active actor, winning tactical battles and achieving strategic success.Ultimately, they were indicative of "superior game-planning and execution". Certainly, not an absence of such.
Tulane simply has better players now- as the recruiting rebounds from the barrenness of the post-Katrina landscape. Things are getting back to normal in New Orleans- which simply isn’t the poor quality of the second half of Scelfo’s tenure. Prior to the program macro-disasters, Scelfo could beat teams in the top fifty on occasion: Hawai’i, Southern Miss, Mississippi State. I imagine, as the Review and Katrina recedes, Tulane is back on that sort of path.
* plus two more who don't play defense: Ginsburgh and Santos