ARLINGTON, Texas— Willie Fritz kept his word.
Seven years ago, he stood at the Glazer Family Club on the Tulane University campus during his introductory press conference.
He called the oppressed program he supported a “sleeping giant”, a program he knew he could wake up.
He explained how the school was “hungry for a winner”.
Heck, he even mentioned the time he taught a first aid course.
“I can perform CPR on a dummy like no one needs,” he joked that day.
Seven years later and 500 miles away in Texas, Fritz has kept his word.
This sleeping giant woke up on one of college football’s biggest stages when Tulane canceled one of the nation’s legendary programs at the 87th Cotton Bowl Classic.
Those hungry fans who have been screaming “one-one, one-two, one hell of a racket” for all these years had been starving for a moment like this.
A football program whose history has had plenty of ‘lifeless dummy’ moments came to life like never before as Tulane rallied to stun USC 46-45 at AT&T Stadium, which looked more like Yulman Stadium. West when the clock struck zero.
It will go down as the biggest win in school history, one that every person dressed in olive green and blue in the crowd of 55,329 will talk about for years. They will tell their children and they will tell their grandchildren and anyone else willing to listen. They’ll talk not only about the thrilling one-minute game, but also about the most electric atmosphere in Tulane sports history. It was a game that took Tulane fans across the emotional spectrum.
It’s only the second time the Green Wave has won a major bowl and the first time since beating Temple in the 1935 Sugar Bowl.
This one opposed an elite program that would have been in the college football playoffs had it won its Pac-12 Championship game last month. It showed that Tulane can indeed compete with the big boys.
“We started this year hoping that’s what we can be,” said sporting director Troy Dannen. “We ended the year knowing who we can be. Going forward, we can expect what we should be. This is a monumental victory for the program. Whether we win or lose today, this was going to be a monumental thing for us.
But Fritz and his players were not going to lose this game. They were as resilient as the city they represent, and nothing was going to stop them.
Not a 15 point deficit with only 4:30 to play.
And not even a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback like Caleb Williams, who torched the Tulane defense for 462 yards and five touchdowns.
This Tulane team has been through much tougher times than that — particularly a season ago when Hurricane Ida forced them to evacuate to Birmingham, Alabama, for weeks.
“The close brotherhood of this team started there, because we were close to each other every day,” said receiver Jha’Quan Jackson, who caught an 87-yard touchdown on Monday.
That disruption last fall turned into a dismal 2-10 record, but they turned it around this season, much like they did in the final four minutes of that game.
“You have two choices when you go through adversity: step back and feel sorry for yourself or jump and get better,” quarterback Michael Pratt said. “That’s what we did and that’s what we will continue to do.”
Running back Tyjae Spears, perhaps the greatest running back in Tulane history and one who can run in NFL stadiums like this, has a personal motto that the wave has lived up to all along. line.
“Everything that’s necessary.”
And it took a lot.
It took the 205 yards and 4 touchdowns that Spears rushed for.
It took USC trying to line up a kickoff that left them on their own 1-yard line, and Tulane’s Patrick Jenkins recorded a safety with 3:20 to go. Still, Tulane had to walk 66 yards to win it.
They practice these situations every Wednesday at Yulman Stadium. Fritz calls the practice drill “fastball.” The music is deafening and he tries to make it as chaotic as possible. It paid off as Pratt and the Green Wave walked down the field and scored on a 6-yard pass to rookie Alex Bauman, which will go down in the history books as one of the most significant plays in the game. history of Tulane.
Officials reviewed the take, but it was pretty obvious on the replay shown on the big giant screen in the stadium they call Jerry World.
“I knew straight away I was scoring,” Bauman said.
The referee made it official minutes later, setting off a roar from the Tulane side of the stadium that was as loud as it had been all afternoon.
The players lay down on the grass and made angels in the raining confetti.
Some fans cried, but they were tears of joy, unlike any tears of grief that Tulane fans had grown so accustomed to over the years.
“It’s a huge win for the program, a huge win for the city,” Fritz said. “We represent New Orleans, Tulane and our football program. I think we have seen this year what a great season of football and top-level competition can do for an institution.
Several Green Wave fans held signs that read “Tulane is a football school.”
You won’t get any arguments from the players.
“Yes, we are a football school,” Jenkins said. “Well, we’re a smart school AND a football school.”
They have certainly looked the part this season. Their 12-2 record ties the undefeated 1998 team for the most wins in school history.
The Green Wave devotees have been waiting for it for a long time. If things go according to plan, they won’t have to wait so long for moments like these.
“We’re fighting for more,” defensive back Jarius Monroe said. “I promise, we’re coming for more.”