Game Review: Memphis Tigers vs. Tulane Green Wave, 10/14/16, 7pm
Final Score: Tigers 24 Green Wave 14; Attendance 21,098
Weather: Clear, High 70’s; Ticket Price $20, Gate, Parking Free – street
“Some tasty (Green) waves and a cool buzz” by Tree
The Green Wave plays at Yulman stadium in the heart of the Tulane campus in New Orleans. The stadium is relatively new, having opened in 2014. Tulane used to play in the New Orleans Superdome. Even if Yulman is on the small side, I am sure it is an immense improvement over the Superdome. My disdain for college teams playing at professional stadiums is well documented (See South Florida, UMass). I was able to park right on the edge of campus for free. It was a good thing because I could find no signage for cash parking. It was all the more surprising given that I had actually done some research on where to park and had put cross streets in the GPS. Despite my faulty navigation, I believe there are several options to get to the stadium via shuttles and the quaint New Orleans streetcars. As I walked through the campus admiring the architecture, I noted the dearth of students walking around campus. It was a real ghost town but I could hear a band rocking in the distance. I picked up my pace, looking forward to seeing the throngs of students getting their Wave on. I anxiously turned the corner to find nothing but an empty field. Okay, so it wasn’t completely empty but when you can count all the tailgater tents on one hand, it might as well be. The band was playing and there were some people milling about, but it had the sad feeling of a party where none of the kids bothered to show up. I assumed that the real tailgating took some place else.
I went over to one of the tents and struck up a conversation with some Tulane faithful. It turns out that it was “Fall Weekend” and the vast majority of students had gone home. It was also noted that it was a Friday night game. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I had been to Thursday and Friday games where the tailgating was in full force. I did accomplish a first by talking to all the tailgaters. Of course, when it is only five of them, it takes off some of the luster. But what they lacked in volume, these fans more than made up in hospitality. I was offered food and drink everywhere. Tops were the homemade pickles with just the right amount of crunch and some great fried fish. I was told that the field is normally filled with students and tailgaters. What is appealing about the setup is that is first come, first served on the quad with no fees. Visitors can get right in on the action, given they arrive four to five hours before kickoff. Another nice feature was that the street off the quad had local vendors selling food and beer as well. This is great for out of towners that don’t want to splurge on a Styrofoam cooler and twelve pack at the Quickie Mart but still want to party right along with the locals. I should have expected such foresight from the citizens of Louisiana – creators of the drive through frozen margarita stand.
It was short walk to Yulman from the quad. I did not have a ticket and saw no scalpers. The booming audio from the security light posts made it clear that such entrepreneurship would not be tolerated. I was not worried because I knew there were plenty of seats available at the gate. I could have bought tickets online from $15 to $35 but I thought I would roll the dice to see if I could find someone dumping their tickets. I came up empty on the black market and had to make my purchase at the gate. Surprisingly, they had gone up $5 to $20 for general admission behind the end zone. I knew the combination of the small stadium and having the video scoreboard on the other end would provide reasonable viewing pleasure. Indeed, my seat was more than serviceable and it gave me a little room to stretch. The concessions were above average with local fare supplementing the standard nachos, dogs, etc. Since I had already eaten a shrimp ‘po boy earlier in the day, I settled on the very satisfying Cajun jambalaya. They also sold beer in cans and drafts in souvenir cups. Only in Louisiana can you get a souvenir cup for beer, but not for soda. Oddly enough, Yuengling was on tap and I was happy to imbibe. I was even more pleased to see the trough in the restroom when the time came to get some relief. If you are going to serve beer, the trough is the plumbing fixture of choice.
With a small stadium, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. The scoreboard had a nice mix of highlights and stats. There were also numerous video ribbons around the stadium. In general admission, it was bench seating but along the sidelines there were seatbacks. I am told that the Yulman has some of the nicest suites in college football but I didn’t get to check those out. The Tulane band was small but not bad. The fans were, ah, kind of into the game. They would cheer occasionally, but to be honest, I think I was most vocal fan in my section. I guess that’s why they call it the Big Easy. There was not much in the way of traditions. They do sing the Hullabaloo when they score so that is something. There is supposed to be a pelican mascot but maybe he was a victim of BP’s oil spill. I didn’t see him anywhere. The student body was actually fairly well represented given the “Fall Weekend”.
With Tulane being in New Orleans, it is an ideal place to visit. I had work in Louisiana that week and I flew into the easily navigable airport. The only rub is that you aren’t likely to get a deal on a hotel. It is a tourist hot spot so the hotels in the city center command a premium. I, however, suggest you pay the extra and stay in the French Quarter. The $50 I saved by be being out a little further would not have been worthwhile if I went to a day game and wanted to go out at night. New Orleans traffic can be a bit of challenge especially if you are crossing the bridges. With booze seemingly available at every turn, I would prefer not to have to drive at all.
Memphis came into this game as the favorites with a strong passing offense. Tulane was also having a good year, but were more of a running team. I was a bit concerned that the Tigers would light up the Green Wave. Thankfully, Tulane’s defense, particularly their defensive backs, had other plans. Memphis drove down the field on the initial drive but were forced to kick a field goal. The Tigers then threw everyone a curve ball by kicking and subsequently recovering an onside kick. The visions of an early blow out popped into my head. However, the Green Wave forced a fumble to win the sudden change. The Tulane offense struggled and had to kick it away. Memphis didn’t do much better and were forced to punt after one first down. It was promptly fumbled on the return by Tulane. The Green Wave defense rose again this time stopping the Tigers on a 4th and 3. This seemed to spark Tulane’s offense. They drove down the field and scored a touchdown to take the lead. Memphis came back with another field goal. Tulane answered with a missed field goal. This seemed to encapsulate the trends of the game. Tulane’s defense would stiffen and perhaps even create the occasional turnover only to be let down by sloppy special teams play. Nonetheless, the Green Wave hung around much longer than I expected and their DBs seemed to be everywhere. In end, the defense seemed to wear out and Memphis took over the second half to win comfortably.
Just about every campus these days has an emergency system to provide assistance to those in need. Tulane put theirs to good use during game day by providing information on shuttle buses, safety tips and other items. While the speakers were a little loud, I thought it was an effective tool. Or at least it was until a drunken Memphis fan disabled each one she came to. The Memphis Band was a more positive representation of the school. They simply rocked. I started looking forward to TV time outs to hear what they would play next.
I would also be doing the Green Wave a disservice by failing to recognize their three SEC titles and two Sugar Bowls wins, albeit from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Nor should I ignore their 1998 season where they went 12-0. Yulman, however, is in its infancy so it has its share of hits and misses. They have the Glazer Family Club section for premium donors with unlimited concessions including alcohol during the game. This “pure hedonism” zone, as the fan next to me described it to me, seems a bit to exclusionary to me. The section was one of the emptiest in the stadium. On the plus side, the “fired up” videos they show on the scoreboard are all Tulane highlights. Bravo to Tulane for taking a pass on the Hollywood montage.
Overall, I was impressed with Yulman Stadium despite the limited tailgating. I will give them a pass on the light attendance given it was fall weekend. The environment is in its infancy and my guess is that it will continue to grow in size and spectacle. Combine this with its location in historic downtown New Orleans and it becomes a worthy destination on your college football itinerary