November 23, 2013

Commentary: Wave will beat Rice, pray for miracle

Barring an improbable UTSA loss at home to lousy Louisiana Tech next Saturday, Tulane won't win Conference USA West if it beats Rice next Saturday.

No, let's amend that statement. Tulane won't win Conference USA West WHEN it beats Rice next week. Unless the Green Wave self-destructs like it did at FAU with a not-close-to-100-percent Nick Montana (four interceptions in four series) or at UTSA two weeks ago (eight false start penalties), its defense is too tough for the Owls.

Rice runs to set up the run. Teams like that don't have much fun against this Tulane defense.

The Green Wave, which ranked 20th nationally against the run before holding UTEP to 49 yards on 33 carries Saturday in a 45-3 mauling, is too good a tackling team, too fast and too strong up front for Rice.

"We really needed this," safety Sam Scofield said after Tulane's largest margin of victory in 18 years of Conference USA play and after holding UTEP to fewer points than any other team in its C-USA history. "When we play like this, no one can stop us."

I've been banging the drums for Tulane's dominant defense for several weeks, but here's an update. The Miners were the fourth team to finish with fewer than 65 rushing yards against the Green Wave joining probable C-USA East winner East Carolina, North Texas and ULM. And UTSA likely would have made that list, too, if not for an out-of-nowhere 68-yard touchdown run that accounted for more than half of its 126 rushing yards.

The few slip-ups have come with caveats. Tulane played without run-stuffing tackle Chris Davenport against FAU, and the defense still stuffed the Owls until wearing down under the weight of all those interceptions. Tulsa had some success on the ground, but those yards translated into only seven points as Tulane came up huge in short-yardage situations.

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