Our League's Entertaining Product Gone Awry
While grateful for the win, I am inclined to dismiss most of the tactical elements. I just can’t separate the good play from the general ineptitude- particularly of the Rice defense.
Ryan Grant can’t generate a big play all season- and suddenly he’s wide open sixty yards downfield with a minute to go? Cody Sparks can’t get open all season and suddenly he’s plucking balls from everywhere? Or is Rice that bad on pass defense? Beats me. Further, the picture to the upper left is indicative- powerful evidence the Tulane defense made a stop Saturday- otherwise who would believe it?
Still, it is hard to not give at least the Green Wave offense a solid grade. The coach, quarterback, rank and file, were all aggressive and opportunistic. Despite the aggression, they treated every possession as important: zero turnovers. They had a chance to hang their heads late- and instead generated a late super go and get it pitch and catch play.
Orleans Darkwa has a solid day- folding his 29 carries into the larger context of the offense. His 113 yards was even a little pedestrian- but I would argue it was also sensible. One can debate that a team can run the ball to 30 points- but certainly not racing to 50. Plus, Tulane was averaging 15.5 yards a completion, 9.4 yards per attempt. Consequently, Ryan Griffin had a very good day- lots of attempts with a turnover, lots of passing yards and big plays without sacks.
The best part of Griffin’s game was on display: that excellent risk/reward metric. He might not be “great”, but Ryan gives you good stuff without bad stuff- which elevates his paper totals, his intangible worth. Ryan also demonstrated that the ball distributor- Case Keenum style quarterbacking- is the real weapon in this League, versus say the big arm, etc. The last touchdown throw, the bomb to Grant, was all about making the right read, eschewing the checkdown at the right time, rather than dazzling with the big arm. The quarterback can generate 30 yard plays in our League by throwing the ball to the right guy rather than making the big power throw.
Frankly, Tulane can’t refuse that sort of safe production if the Wave is going to score seven TDs. With the Wave defensive woes, Tulane had to score and protect the ball. Good job.
Now, seven touchdowns! Ridiculous?! But ultimately, in C-USA team have to be able to win this sort of shootout. The League is constructed, recruited and officiated to torture defenses- and everyone throws out real stinkers on occasion: see Rice-Houston. To get to seven, eight wins you have to able to win different types of games- and one type is not going home at the half if the C-USA defense is on track to allow 500 yards, 40+ points. In the SEC or Big Ten, that kind of production equals a loss. In C-USA, teams have got to move a few of those games out of the loss column.
Strategically, the fourth win officially crowns this Tulane team as, in spite of pre-season expectations, “improved”.
Tulane has won both games- Rice and Southeastern Louisiana- they have played against teams representative of the bottom 20. If nothing else, it validates Tulane ain’t one of the worst twenty outfits in the country for the first time in Toledo's tenure.
If building program credibility is a goal around uptown New Orleans, Tulane simply cannot lose to Rice, simply cannot lose to Southeastern. The stakes Saturday afternoon weren’t big, but they also are not irrelevant, so one cannot act as if the result does not matter.