We are fortunate today to welcome Tammy Nunez of The Times-Picayune to the blog to provide a little insight on Tulane in advance of UNT’s Conference USA opener against the Green Wave down in New Orleans.
You can find Tammy’s work on the Times-Picayune website, which is the place to go this week for all your Tulane news.
Here’s her take on the UNT-Tulane matchup:
1. How much did Saturday’s win over Louisiana-Monroe mean to Tulane, especially following a win over Louisiana Tech?
The ULM victory was key particularly in light of losing to the Warhawks 63-10 the season before and right on the heels of the 52-17 thrashing Tulane took at Syracuse in the previous week. It showed that Tulane could make corrections on special teams and in pass protection and win on the road. It also kept Tulane’s bowl hopes viable. The Green Wave hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2002. Three wins before October showed a program on track for a bowl game.
2. UNT head coach Dan McCarney talked about how much Tulane has improved since last season. Do you see the team turning a corner?
Coach McCartney is right — Tulane is an improved team in most areas. But it graduated a veteran quarterback who signed with the New Orleans Saints (Ryan Griffin) and replaced the seasoned passer with Nick Montana, who is new to New Orleans and Tulane. There hasn’t been a drastic drop-off with Montana directing the offense but he clearly isn’t able to step in with four years of experience in the system either. Overall, the program has more speed and size and that is showing up in the win-loss column. Tulane hasn’t won three games in a season since 2010. The schedule is weaker than in years past, so account for that, but it appears the program is strengthening.
3. UNT chased Jordan Batiste pretty hard a couple of years ago. He’s coming off being named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week. Tell us a little about how he’s playing?
Jordan Batiste started off the season in Coach Curtis Johnson’s doghouse. He was suspended for one full game and half of another. He wasn’t following all the stipulations of the program and he played on scout team defense at practices. But Batiste owned up to his mistakes both in-house and to the media in interviews and said all that is behind him now. He plays with a fierce abandon that most of the time results in huge plays. Sometimes he gambles and gets burned – but such is the life of a defensive back, right? Last week’s strip of ULM QB Kolton Browning led to a fumble recovery that was returned 33 yards for a touchdown. It helped take the life out the Warhawks attack and paved the way to Tulane’s win. Great player.
4. Montana is a name people obviously know. Tell us about how Nick is performing in his first season at Tulane?
The biggest asset Montana has is not is last name, it’s his ability to adapt, improve and see the field. He is becoming a great possession passing quarterback who has great instincts in terms of when to tuck and run and when to hang in the pocket and throw. He has showed tremendous toughness as well – he’s taken 15 sacks this season and countless brutal hits. But the kid has completed 84-of-155 passes for 984 yards and nine touchdowns. Montana only has four interceptions this season and that speaks volumes considering the pressure he’s been under.
5. How do you think this game will unfold?
I think we are looking at a shootout type of game. Derek Thompson’s numbers are outstanding, particularly considering the strength of competition so far this season. Tulane is a bend-and-sometimes-break sort of defense. The Green Wave played great against ULM and Louisiana Tech but got off to some slow starts versus Syracuse and South Alabama. Then there is the homecoming curse. Tulane hasn’t won a homecoming game since 2006. It hasn’t started Conference USA 2-0 since 1998 – that’s a lot of negativity to overcome. But I see both teams being competitive against each other and featuring some good talent. It should be a hard-hitting, close, high-scoring affair.