Tulane visits No. 10 Auburn, eyes biggest win in 35 years

Field Level Media

September 04, 2019 at 7:17 am.

Tulane’s opening 42-14 rout of Florida International may not have caught much national attention, but the dominating performance over an opponent returning most of its starters from a team that was 9-4 a year ago was significant for the American Athletic Conference also-ran.

Even so, Green Wave coach Willie Fritz is well aware of the task his team will take on Saturday when it visits 10th-ranked Auburn (ESPN2, 7:30 p.m. ET).

“Now we’re moving up in weight class against Auburn,” Fritz said this week on the AAC coaches’ teleconference. “They had a big win over Oregon the other night. We’re going to have to play great.

“You talk about improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, we’re going to have to make that type improvement in order to have an opportunity to win that game.”

Tulane hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent since a 27-23 win over then-No. 19 Vanderbilt in 1984, failing in its past 44 attempts.

Auburn moved into the No. 10 spot in the latest rankings after it came from behind to beat No. 11 Oregon 27-21 last weekend in Arlington, Texas. The Tigers scored the decisive touchdown on freshman quarterback Bo Nix’s 26-yard pass to wide receiver Seth Williams to cap a rally from a 21-6 deficit with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.

Earlier in the decisive drive, Nix managed to get the nose of the football just past the first-down marker on a fourth-down run, and before that, Auburn’s defense stopped Oregon on a fourth-and-1 to preserve valuable time in the fourth quarter.

Senior Auburn safety Jeremiah Dinson called that fourth-down stop a “game-changer.” It could turn out to be a season changer for Auburn as well — if the Tigers can keep their focus on the task at hand.

“That’s going to be our challenge,” coach Gus Malzahn said. “That will be our challenge as a team. Everybody saw that was a big emotional win and everything that goes with that. You’ve got to put that in your rearview mirror.

“Everyone is patting you on the back and everything … You’ve got to realize we are playing a very quality opponent (Tulane). Our players turn on the film — they can tell these guys play their guts out, they play hard and they are talented.”

One thing the Tigers are looking for this week is to give starting running back JaTarvious Whitlow more support. Whitlow rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries on Saturday, but no other Auburn ball carrier had more than seven runs, the total produced by Nix.

“That’s a focus of ours, there’s no doubt,” Malzahn said. “I just felt like the other night that we just really needed to go with our veteran guy with the way the game was going.”

Fritz hopes his team won’t be intimidated entering Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“I told our guys we are going to go over there on Friday to walk around the field,” he said. “It will kind of be like ‘Hoosiers.’ It will be a 120 yards long and 53 and 1/3 yards in width. They are going to have a 10-yard end zone and all that kind of stuff.

“We are going to walk around out there, take all our pictures, get the selfies going, and then Saturday we are going in there for business.”