Tulane football jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on its way to a 43-14 season-opening win over Grambling State in front of a crowd of 15,940 Saturday evening at Yulman Stadium.
In his debut at Tulane, junior quarterback Jonathan Banks accounted for four touchdowns, passing for three and rushing for another, to push the Green Wave (1-0) to the early advantage. He was an efficient 10-for-15 passing for 185 yards, and rushed 16 times for 69 yards. Junior wide receiver Terren Encalade scored twice – catching a 30-yard touchdown pass, and rushing 58 yards for another.
Tulane totaled 481 yards, including 296 rushing and 185 through the air, and has recorded 400 yards of offense in its last two games dating back to the 2016 finale at UConn. The 43 points scored by the Wave was the most in a season opener since a 47-33 win over Southeastern Louisiana in the 2011 opener.
The Green Wave defense pitched a shutout in the first half, and did not allow Grambling to reach the end zone until 5:25 remained in the third quarter. The Wave held the Tigers (0-1) to 225 yards of total offense, and picked up an interception by junior cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr.
Senior running back Dontrell Hilliard and sophomore wide receiver Darnell Mooney also caught touchdown passes for the Wave. Hilliard raced 62 yards on his scoring reception, and Mooney made an acrobatic 19-yard catch in the end zone. Sophomore running back Darius Bradwell, a former quarterback, scored the on a 27-yard run – his first career touchdown.
Tulane forced a punt on five of Grambling’s first six possessions – the other was an interception by junior cornerback Donnie Lewis Jr. – and turned four of those into touchdowns. Banks hit Encalade for a 30-yard strike to cap a five-play, 56-yard drive and give the Green Wave a 7-0 lead, with the extra point by redshirt freshman Coby Neenan.
On the second offensive possession, Banks kept the ball for the final seven yards of the 51-yard drive. His score was the fifth play of the possession, and made it a 14-0 ballgame. The first two scoring drives elapsed 2:45 and 2:30, respectively. Neenan added a 21-yard field goal with 5:15 left in the first half to make the score 17-0.
Hilliard gave Tulane a 24-0 lead heading into halftime with his 62-yard catch-and-run scamper with 3:16 left in the half. He finished with 77 receiving yards on two catches, and ran for 36 yards on 11 carries. The Green Wave shut out their opponent in the first half for the second straight game, dating back to last season.
Senior running back Sherman Badie returned the second half kickoff 52 yards, setting up a 19-yard touchdown pass from Banks to Mooney that made the score 31-0.