There’s tangible evidence that Tulane football is ready to turn the corner – a big, wide turn toward respectability.
Winning has been an elusive endeavor Uptown. Since winning eight games and the Hawaii Bowl in 2002, the Green Wave has had one winning season. Since 2002, Tulane has won three or fewer games in seven seasons.
When the Green Wave does win, there is a consistent thread, and that thread is winning quarterback play. The 1973 team featured starting quarterback Steve Foley and a very capable No. 2 man, Terry Looney. That team won nine games and beat LSU for the first time since 1948.
One year later, Tulane won its first five games. In Game 6, Foley suffered a broken leg against Georgia Tech at Grant Field. The Green Wave did not win again that season. One season later, after a 4-7 campaign, head coach Bennie Ellender was fired two years into a new, 10-year contract.
In 1979, Tulane won nine as senior quarterback Roch Hontas threw for 2,345 yards and 14 touchdowns.
A year later, Tulane won seven as Nickie Hall tossed 21 touchdown passes and threw for 2,039 yards. Seven years later, Lutcher’s Terrence Jones threw 20 touchdown passes and ran for eight more. Tulane accepted a bid to the Independence Bowl. Head coach Mack Brown parlayed six wins into a new job at North Carolina.
In 1996, Tulane was a two-win football team as quarterback Shaun King threw eight touchdown passes.
The next season, King threw 24 and Tulane won seven games.
The following season, King threw 38 as the Green Wave finished off a perfect 12-0 season. King was then drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In 2002, Tulane’s eight-win team was quarterbacked by future first round pick J.P. Losman.
Only in 2013 did Tulane produce a winner without superb play from its starting signal caller. Nick Montana, working behind an average offensive line, took plenty of hits as Tulane won seven games and earned a bid to play Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. That season, Tulane’s defense, led by a quality secondary, was the big story.
Which brings us to the 2018 season. Senior quarterback Jonathan Banks was very solid in the spring and, at times, exceptional. But keeping Banks healthy is critical.
Sophomore Dane Ledford has thrown one pass in a college game. True freshman Christian Daniels, an early enrollee, might be the future.
After the 2017 season, quarterbacks Johnathan Brantley and Khalil McClain announced they would transfer. So, much rides on the shoulders of Banks.
Head coach Willie Fritz has said this on more than one occasion: “If you are average at the quarterback position, you have to be good everywhere else.”
Tulane football’s talent level has improved substantially in two seasons. But, in 2018, the Wave is all in on Banks.
It is a familiar Olive-and-Blue story. If a winning season occurs, it is thanks to outstanding play at quarterback.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.