Starting fast against Tulane & the tunnel screen that worked

Tonight’s game is most likely the last time Tulane and UH will play in New Orleans as AAC members.
 

The Cougars need to start fast. All of ECU, Ole Miss, and OU scored at least six times in the first half against Tulane this year. UAB scored on 3 of their four first-half possessions. FBS teams have scored on 85.2% of their first-half possessions against the Greenies.

Starting fast is just what people do against Tulane in 2021. But recent history between the schools proves that a fast start isn’t always enough. UH led 28-7 less than 17 minutes into the game in 2019 and lost. Tulane led 24-7 less than 17 minutes into the game in 2020 and lost.
 

In their four FBS games, Tulane gives up over 45 ppg. The Green Wave are 126th in scoring defense and are equally awful against the pass (112th) and the run (116th). The Greenies are 121st in turnover margin and, in a ball-control offense, they are 119th in time of possession.

Nothing is going right for Tulane. That ‘comeback’ against OU was an anomaly based on emotion after Hurricane Ida. That’s not who they are.
 

A spot to watch: Tulane’s left tackle Joey Claybrook (#79). Claybrook has been vulnerable against the pass rush all year. He’s given up three of Tulane’s eight sacks, allowed four more hits on the QB, and has allowed 11 hurries and 18 pressures. That’s nearly 20% of all Tulane dropbacks. The guard next to him, Corey Dublin (#64) has seen his struggles this year in the passing game, too. Look for Brian Early to go after them early and often.
 

UH won ten straight games over Tulane from the wild 45-42 game in City Park in 2003 through 2012. The teams did not play in 2013 as UH moved to the AAC (Tulane was a year behind) but since have both been members, UH leads the series just 4-3.
 

The tunnel screen actually worked! No, really!

The tunnel screen is the very first pass the Dana Holgorsen offense completed in his opening game (OU 2019). After a botched first play, D’Eriq King found Marquez Stevenson on a tunnel to the right side.

The play is designed to attack the tunnel that naturally opens between players in the box and the defensive backs on the outside. The center and backside guard and tackle have the responsibility to get downfield and neutralize the outside linebacker and the safety. That seals the tunnel.

In Dana’s first attempt, it did not go well. The three offensive linemen run right past a first-round draft pick (Kenneth Murray) heading for the safety. Braylon Jones runs through the tunnel, between Murray and where Stevenson is heading, but never lays a hand on Murray (or anyone else). The other OLs run straight for the safety. Of course, the safety doesn’t matter in this play when you don’t even touch the LB.

I’m sure the tunnel screen has picked up positive yards in the 23 games since OU but I can’t remember any. Maybe a short-yardage gain against Wazzu in 2019. But last Friday, it actually worked!

KeSean Carter goes in motion and at the snap takes a step forward then charges right at the cornerback Tyon Davis. Carter pops him but doesn’t necessarily block him and Davis nearly snags Singleton after a seven-yard gain. But Singleton twists out of the tackles and keeps his footing.

Meanwhile, out in front Kody Russey, Tank Jenkins, and Dennis Bardwell are looking to rat kill and in this instance, the linemen do good work. Tune sells the fake well enough to get the middle and sam linebackers to bite and Bardwell does a great job of getting downfield and peeling back to screen them (what was missing in 2019). Russey takes out the safety that had motioned across with Carter and Jenkins gets just enough of the deep safety to prevent him from touching Singleton.

It’s a 47-yard score and, notably, is the only passing TD of the season for UH that was thrown less than 15 yards down the field. That’s remarkable because right at 75% of Tune’s passes travel 15 yards or less in the air. I wouldn’t have expected it but a well-executed tunnel screen is the first play to get the Cougars a score on a short throw.

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