NEW ORLEANS – Tulane (1-1) shone a spotlight of all three phases of its squad in Saturday’s home opener, as the Green Wave rolled to a 66-21 victory over Southern University (0-2).
Offensively, the Wave rushed for 437 yards, the most since 1973 and third most in school history, and punched in seven rushing touchdowns on the night – three from Dontrell Hilliard and two each from Josh Rounds and Lazedrick Thompson.
Meanwhile, Tulane’s defense and special teams reeled in two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and returned an 86-yard kickoff for a touchdown as well.
“First victory here at Yulman Stadium, that’s always special,” Tulane head coach Willie Fritz said. “Got to play a lot of guys which is great because they work so hard that you want to reward them with some playing time. I thought we started off playing extremely well defensively, including that 96-yard interception by Parry Nickerson. You’ve got to give Southern some credit though. At this point, we need to learn how to come out in the second half and slam that door and keep it shut. Overall though, we’re just happy for the win.”
Tulane’s first five touchdowns were either set up or scored by the Green Wave’s defense or special teams. Ade Aruna’s fourth career sack coupled with Tanzel Smart’s second career fumble recovery set up a five-yard Hilliard touchdown run. Then Nico Marley’s fourth career interception resulted in Hilliard’s second scoring run of the game.
Parry Nickerson then flashed his defensive prowess at the 6:33 mark in the first quarter, returning an interception 96 yards for the touchdown. After Southern got its first score of the game at the 2:28 mark via a 20-yard touchdown reception to Dillon Beard, it was Sherman Badies’ turn to display his speed with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Tulane’s impressive first quarter showing wasn’t done there, as Jarrod Franklin notched a punt block with 51 seconds remaining, eventually leading to a one-yard Josh Rounds touchdown run just three plays later to begin the second quarter. Rounds and Thompson each added a touchdown on the ground later in the second quarter, extending Tulane’s lead to 49-7 at the mid-way point.
Thompson and Hilliard each tacked on one more rushing touchdown in the second half, as the latter achieved his third of the game which marked a career best. Finally, add in an Andrew DiRocco fourth quarter 25-yard field goal and Tulane’s 66 total points were the most scored since the Olive and Blue recorded 63 vs Louisiana Tech on Nov. 26, 1998.
Up next, the Green Wave remain home when they host Navy on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. CT, for Coach Fritz’s first American Athletic Conference match-up.
Green Wave Notes
The win over Southern marked Tulane’s first victory in a home opener since defeating Jackson State, 34-7, on Aug. 31, 2013.
Saturday’s meeting between Tulane and Southern marked the third meeting between the two schools. Tulane is 3-0 against all-time against the Jaguars. This was the first game played in Yulman Stadium.
The Green Wave have scored 30 or more points in three of its last five games with two resulting in wins – 34-31 at Army on Nov. 14, 2015 and 66-21 vs. Southern on Sept. 10, 2016.
The last time Tulane scored 60+ points in a game was 63 against Louisiana Tech (11/26/1998).
The last time Tulane scored 40+ points in a home opener was a 47-33 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 3, 2011.
Tulane’s 66 points scored are the most in Yulman Stadium history, topping the 45 points scored by Tulane vs. UCF on Oct. 3, 2015 and the 45 points scored by Tulsa vs. Tulane on Nov. 17, 2015.
Tulane’s 437 total rushing yards mark the first time the Green Wave have rushed for more than 400 yards since totaling 407 against VMI (9/29/73), this total ranks as the third most in a single game in program history.
Tulane scored on its opening drive after gaining possession off a Southern fumble. The 1-yard run by Dontrell Hilliard marked the third-consecutive game in which Tulane scored on the opening drive.
Six Tulane players extended their double-digit starting streaks on Saturday against Southern: OG Chris Taylor (29), LB Nico Marley (27), DT Tanzel Smart (26), CB Parry Nickerson (23), FS Jarrod Franklin (14), OT Todd Jacquet (14).
Senior DT Tanzel Smart’s first-quarter fumble recovery was the second of his career with the other one coming at Georgia Tech on Sept. 12, 2015.
Senior LB Nico Marley’s first-quarter, 96-yard interception was the fourth of his career. Marley snared one interception in each of his first three seasons. His interception is the longest in Yulman Stadium history, topping the 89-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tulsa’s Kolton Shindelar on Nov. 27, 2015.
Junior RB Dontrell Hilliard recorded the third multi-touchdown game of his career (two vs. Maine on Sept. 19, 2015 and two at Memphis on Oct. 31, 2015) and his first game with three touchdowns. He now has 11 career TDs.
Dontrell Hilliard’s 103 yards and Johnathan Brantley’s 119 yards rushing mark the first time two Tulane players ran for 100+ yards in a game since Shaun King (109) and Toney Converse (103) did so against BYU (12/31/98).
Redshirt junior CB Parry Nickerson’s first-quarter interception was the seventh of his career. His 96-yard interception return for a touchdown was 4 yards short of the school record of 100 yards by David Herbert on Sept. 25, 1971. Herbert’s return also went for a touchdown.
The last time Tulane had an interception return for a touchdown was at Florida Atlantic on Nov. 2, 2013 on a 69-yard pick six by Lorenzo Doss.
Redshirt junior Sherman Badie’s first-quarter, 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first for Tulane since Jeremy Williams ran a kickoff back 88 yards for a touchdown vs. UTEP on Nov. 7, 2009. It was Badie’s first kickoff return for a touchdown and the longest kickoff return of his career.
Redshirt senior Lazedrick Thompson record the first multi-touchdown game of his career after an 11-yard rushing score in the second quarter and a 9-yard run in the third.
On the first play of his collegiate career, Johnathan Brantley rushed for 63 yard.
Redshirt sophomore LB Zachary Harris made the first start of his career against Southern.
Senior CB Parry Nickerson carried carried out the No. 18 Flag in honor of former Green Wave player Devon Walker.
Tulane’s game captains for Saturday’s contest vs. Southern were seniors CB Richard Allen, WR Larry Dace III, LB Eric Thomas and RB Lazedrick Thompson.
Tonight’s attendance was 27,179.