Willie Fritz will become Tulane’s all-time leader in games coached when the 23rd-ranked Green Wave play North Texas on Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.
It will be the 95th game on the sidelines for Fritz, breaking a tie with Chris Scelfo (1998-2006).
It also will be an opportunity for Tulane (5-1, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) — which has won 17 of its last 20 games — to continue to show it is one of the premier Group of 5 programs in the country.
But Fritz said his team still can perform much better than it has this season.
“We don’t believe we’ve played our best game yet,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve been even close to playing our best game yet. We’ve played really well in spurts. We haven’t put a complete game together yet, and we’d love to do that. Perfection is our goal. Excellence will be tolerated.”
Nonetheless, the Green Wave are coming off a significant victory. They won at Memphis for the first time in 25 years when they beat the Tigers 31-21 in an AAC showdown on Oct. 13.
The victory led to Tulane ending a five-week absence from the AP poll. It was ranked No. 24 to start the season and stayed there until after losing to then-No. 20 Ole Miss 37-20 on Sept. 9.
The Green Wave started fast against Memphis, taking a 10-0 lead after one quarter before falling behind 21-10 in the third quarter and scoring the final 21 points.
“From the middle of the third quarter on we played well,” Fritz said.
Tulane’s defense is No. 6 nationally in fewest rushing yards allowed (77.7 per game) and is eighth in sacks (3.33 per game).
The Green Wave will be tested by a versatile Mean Green offense that has gained more than 500 yards in four games this season.
Former Washington State offensive coordinator Eric Morris is in his first season as head coach at North Texas (3-3, 1-1).
“I think this will probably be the best football team we have played to this point,” Morris said of the Green Wave.
Morris is in the first stage of trying to build the Mean Green into the type of program that Fritz has built. Tulane won the AAC last season, defeated Southern California in the Cotton Bowl and was picked in the preseason to repeat as conference champion.
North Texas is coming off its first conference victory as a new member of the American, defeating visiting Temple 45-14 last week.
The Mean Green made three interceptions and didn’t allow a point in the second half. Chandler Rogers tied a career high with four touchdown passes and extended his streak of passes without an interception to 165 while Ja’Mori Maclin caught two touchdown passes to increase his season total to eight.
But Morris said the key for his team could be its ability to run against the stingy Green Wave defense.
“Nobody’s really been able to establish a run game against them,” Morris said. “I think it would be important for us to continue to build on what we’ve been able to do in the run game.”
–Field Level Media