The Tulane Green Wave put a real scare into Oklahoma in Week 1 of the college football season. The Green Wave did trail 37-14, but they rallied within five points, at 40-35, and got the ball back in the final minutes, driving to the Oklahoma 44.
By Matt Zemek
However, Tulane was stopped half a yard shot on fourth down, and coach Willie Fritz’s team was barely denied a big moment. One obviously has to ask if that was Tulane’s Super Bowl for the year, or if the Green Wave have another inspired performance in them as they continue with their season. Willie Fritz is viewed as a rising star in the coaching profession. Many people in the college football industry think he would have been a great candidate for the recent job opening at Kansas, which the Jayhawks instead filled with Lance Leipold. Fritz also came across as a reasonable hire for Arizona when that job came open this past offseason. Yet, no Power Five conference school with a job opening has yet to offer Fritz a job. This leaves Tulane with one of the smarter, more creative head coaches in the country. Ole Miss’s defense needs to be ready for the challenge this weekend.
1 – Defensive fundamentals
Louisville did not challenge Ole Miss on a schematic level in Week 1. The Cardinals played into the Rebels’ hands with their limited formations and lack of play design. Louisville had Lamar Jackson in 2016. Let’s simply say the Cardinals are nowhere close to that standard of offensive excellence five years later in 2021. Willie Fritz’s Tulane offense presents Ole Miss with a lot more complexity, versatility, and competence. The Tulane-Oklahoma film will give Ole Miss a sense of what is coming its way this weekend. One strong performance against Louisville doesn’t identify Ole Miss as a team with a solid defense. If this group can put the clamps on Tulane, we can begin to change our perceptions of how good the Rebels are on defense. Staying home and not being fooled by bait or misdirection from Fritz will be a central task for a defense which hasn’t even played one SEC game yet and needs to enter the SEC season with confidence.
2 – Keep the train rolling
Ole Miss could have been vulnerable to an especially sloppy performance this past weekend, given that the Rebels had just four days between their Monday (Labor Day) opener and their Week 2 game versus Austin Peay. Yet, they didn’t sleepwalk. They got the early lead and made that game as easy as it should have been on paper. Ole Miss is displaying good habits and making the right responses to various situations in the early part of the season. The mantra in the locker room should be, “Keep playing this way. Keep carrying yourselves in a businesslike manner while having fun on the field and pounding opponents into the ground.” Don’t mess with success.
3 – Secondary is primary
Before Alabama and other passing offenses get a crack at Ole Miss, this defense – which is in the process of trying to prove itself – needs to make sure its cornerbacks and safeties are displaying the right habits and are reading both the quarterback’s eyes and the reactions of receivers properly. Improving these responses versus Tulane will set the table for solid performances against SEC West offenses.