No. 20 Tulane seeks its 8th straight win when it hosts desperate Tulsa

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Living dangerously has become a habit lately for No. 20 Tulane.

The Green Wave's last three victories have come by 12 points combined despite being double-digit favorites in each game.

Those results aren't necessarily ideal for a team trying to defend its American Athletic Conference title and return to a second straight major New Year's Day bowl game. But it was hardly cause for panic as the Tulane (8-1, 5-0 AAC, No. 23 CFP) prepared to host struggling, but desperate, Tulsa (3-6, 1-4) on Saturday.

“We’d like to play our very best,” Tulane coach Willie Fritz said. “But, like I told our guys, a win is big, especially at this time of year, and we’ll take it.

“It’s a hell of a lot better than a pretty loss,” Fritz added.

Relatively speaking, Tulane's football program is in the midst of a golden era. The Green Wave have won 20 of their past 23 games, including a landmark victory over USC in last season's Cotton Bowl.

That run of form compares rather favorably to a 19-season stretch between 1999 and 2017 in which Tulane went to just two lower-profile bowls — never mind their 2-10 record in 2021.

During those down seasons, Tulane fans and players alike became conditioned to late-game implosions when things got tight.

Lately, however, the Green Wave keep finding ways to win — even if its not by as wide a margin as some might expect.

“It shows you that we’re a veteran squad and have a lot of fantastic leadership and they believe that we’re going to win,” Fritz said.

“One of my buddies sent me a bunch of stuff about how we’re not winning by enough,” Fritz added. “That’s a good problem to have. I like that. When I first got here ... I got patted on the back because we played hard and we were organized. We had the correct 11 out on the field all the time.”

After a promising 3-2 start, Tulsa has lost four straight, but coach Kevin Wilson points to last week's overtime loss to Charlotte as evidence that his players haven't quit.

“I see our kids fighting, playing hard, playing physical, playing four quarters and I greatly respect and appreciate that,” Wilson said. “They want to win. They want to finish the season strong. We’ve got a great opportunity to play a Top 25 team on the road.”


Replacing the production of 2022 star running back Tyjae Spears, who is now in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, was never going to be easy for Tulane.

But the Green Wave ground game has remained exceptional thanks to the emergence of Mekhi Hughes, who has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in five straight games.

He now has 877 yards and five touchdowns on the season with three games left to get to the coveted 1,000-yard plateau.


Tulsa must win its final three regular-season games to have a chance of going to a bowl game. For Golden Hurricane coaches and players, that's a source of motivation, however long the odds.

“So many things in your life are finite,” Wilson said. "Our season has an ending point and we want to prolong that. We want to spend more time together.”

Added safety Dayne Hodges, “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of our heads for sure.”

“You’ve got to fuel that motivation some way to go out there and give our best effort to Tulane and see what happens,” Hodges added. “We got to go out there and execute. We’ve got to quit talking about it and start doing it.”


Tulane's close margin of victory the past two weeks in particular was arguably by design. Each game ended with the Green Wave offense sustaining long, clock-consuming drives and purposely stalling out in their opponent's red zone.

At Rice two weeks ago, Tulane protected a 2-point lead by running 8:06 off the clock after getting the ball at its own 32-yard line with 8:10 to play. Last week, Tulane ran out the final 7:17 with the ball with a 3-point lead at East Carolina.

“You talk about controlling the clock and controlling the tempo of play,” said Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt, who has passed for 1,597 yards and 15 touchdowns and has rushed for 264 yards and four scores.

“When we come to those times and we have those opportunities, we have to execute and do what you have to do to come out with the victory," Pratt continued. "We’ve handled those situations well.”


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