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Open date comes in handy for Tulane as it gets ready to face high-scoring Tulsa

October 1, 2017 GMT

The Tulane football team’s open date came at the right time just because of the name of the next opponent.

If ever the Green Wave (2-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) needed an extra week to prepare, it’s for perennial nemesis Tulsa, which did anything it wanted against an otherwise solid defense during a 50-27 rout last season.

The Golden Hurricane ran for 330 yards, passed for 236 more and had big plays galore, ripping off gains of 30, 42, 46, 49 and 50 yards while pretty much naming the score.

The total of 566 yards allowed was more than 200 above the Wave’s season average.

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“We played horribly,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “We’ll need to play a lot better than what we played. Last year they found some matchups that were good for them and took advantage of it. We had a tough time defending some of the guys.”

The good news for the Wave is Tulsa lost most of its skill position players from 2016, including running back James Flanders (22 carries, 190 yards against Tulane), receivers Josh Atkinson (seven catches, 142 yards) and Keevan Lucas (three catches, 67 yards) along with quarterback Dane Evans (236 passing yards, three scores).

The bad news: coach Philip Montgomery’s spread offense, imported from Baylor when he arrived in 2015, has remained as prolific as usual. Tulsa averaged 311.5 rushing yards — the fourth-best total in the nation — entering Saturday afternoon’s home game with Navy.

Quarterback Chad President has not passed as well as Evans, but the Golden Hurricane lost three of its first four primarily because of a defense that ranked 128th out of 129 FBS teams in yards allowed (590.3 per game).

Tulsa, which spreads the field and has its offensive linemen take unusually wide splits, loves to punish teams right up the middle.

“Everybody thinks they are a real big passing team, but they are a great running team,” Fritz said. “If you honor (the spread formation) too much out there, they are going to run it down your throat. If you pack the box, they’ll have good matchups (on the outside) and take advantage of it. You’ve got to be multiple against them and not line up in just one front or one coverage or you’ll get killed.”

That is what has happened to Tulane all too frequently against Tulsa, which leads the series 11-2. All but one of the Golden Hurricane’s victories have come by double digits, and nine have been by at least three touchdowns.

Fritz was part of only one of those defeats. As he tries to change the culture at Tulane, a win next Saturday would be huge.

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It will start with better defense and proving that performance a year ago was an outlier. Aside from the mismatch against Oklahoma a few weeks ago, Tulsa’s yardage total was higher than anyone Fritz has faced in his 16 games with Tulane.

No one was thrilled that Army ran for 375 yards on Sept. 23, but the Wave held the Black Knights to 14 points before wearing down on their final touchdown drive.

“We hung in there and we battled the whole game and a couple of things went our way,” safety Roderic Teamer said. “We got some stops. We got a turnover in the red zone. Would you call it luck? I don’t know, but whatever it is, I hope we keep it.”