Tulane is bowl eligible for the first time since 2002. Yes it is against a very weak schedule, but two years ago Tulane was getting blown out by teams they were supposed to beat. The progress this team has made in one and a half years is nothing short of remarkable.
Coach Curtis Johnson has a led the turnaround of a team that had four wins in the past two years combined, a team that was routinely ridiculed as one of the worst in the country, a team that had become largely an afterthought to the student population of the school. CJ, as Johnson is affectionately called around campus, was an assistant at University of Miami last time Tulane played in a bowl game. That Miami team was playing in their second consecutive national title that year, and CJ was also an assistant with the Saints during the 2009 Super Bowl season, yet he said after tonight this was his happiest moment in coaching. Those are strong words from a man that has been around some big moments, but as he pointed out, this is his first go round as head guy and that means a lot. CJ even got his first Gatorade bath after the game, joking “They don’t shower assistants!”
The Green Wave clinched bowl eligibility against a team, in Tulsa, they hadn’t beaten since 1968. Tulsa is also the team that Devon Walker was paralyzed against last season. Walker has been a galvanizing force for the team all year, and the fact that they were able to get this win at home, against Tulsa, made an emotional moment that much more special. Julius Wormsley, the senior defensive end who was involved in the collision that injured Walker, admitted after the game that this provided some good, and much needed, closure for him personally.
For the older players on this team, this was a moment they had been dreaming about for a long time. Senior RB Orleans Darkwa confessed he didn’t know if he would see this moment during his time at Tulane. Some of the younger players saw the promises made to them during CJ’s recruiting pitch come to fruition faster than even they could have hoped. Guys like Darion Monroe and Lorenzo Doss are a big part of the reason this team has reached this point, and their swagger seems to have permeated throughout the locker room. It was quite apparent how much this game and this season has meant to not only players, but to everyone at the school. Tulane AD Rick Dickson was seen crying after the game, as were many of the parents in the stands. The student section was rocking as players jumped into their waiting arms. Plastic bowls were thrown in the air as chants of “Bowl Game! Bowl Game” broke out around the Dome.
Perhaps more important than the the bowl eligibility is the fact that Tulane improved to 4-0 in Conference USA. Tulane is celebrating their last year in the SuperDome, but they are also participating in their last year in the conference before moving on to the AAC. A conference title is well within reach, and CJ knows how sweet it would be to go out on a high note.
There is work to be done, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and there is a lot of time left for this team to accomplish much more, but for a school and a team, today was special and it is an accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated, if only for the night. I certainly did not expect to see a bowl game in my time here, but with pride I say, ROLL DAMN WAVE! We’re going bowling!