NEW ORLEANS – Tulane football (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, 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.