Dr. Saturday, over at Yahoo, just ranked the R+L Carriers Bowl as the worst of all 35 bowl games. I can’t really argue; it probably is. (Also — if you care, R+L Carriers is a global trucking logistics company.) It’s also one of the first — there are four on December 21 — and it’s not even the most interesting game of the first day; USC and Fresno State play on the 21st too. USC is a pedigree brand, and Fresno probably should have been in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington State plays on the 21st too, and seeing Mike Leach do things is always fun. But there are a couple of interesting stories with Tulane. First off, it’s their first bowl game since 2002 — and their first winning season since then as well. Their coach, Curtis Johnson (Year 2), just got $1 million and raises for his assistants. (Look at some of the guys Johnson is credited with recruiting at his various stops as an assistant, by the way.) Their QB, as you can see above, is Nick Montana, whose dad is, yes, Joe Montana (I’m sure he gets tired of that comparison eventually). His stats aren’t other-worldly or anything, but he did complete 63 percent of his passes for 171 yards and 3 TDs in a romp over UTEP a couple of weeks back. (UTEP did finish 2-10 this year.) Ryan Grant (WR) and Lorenzo Doss (CB) have been solid.
I find Tulane football incessantly interesting in general; remember, in 1998, this team was 12-0. Shaun King was a star, they were averaging 45 PPG, and they finished No. 7 in America. This is Tulane football we’re discussing. Tommy Bowden and Rich Rodriguez left for Clemson — Rich Rod left because he wasn’t promoted to head coach when Bowden left — and new generations of college football drama was born (Rodriguez went two years at Clemson, then WVU, then Michigan, and now Arizona; Arizona’s actually playing their bowl in Louisiana too, but in Shreveport on 12/31). Tommy Bowden won nine games three times at Clemson, but was also 3-5 in bowl games and was canned in 2008. He’s not coaching right now. Shaun King is a CFB analyst for Fox Sports Net.
Like much of New Orleans, Tulane football was devastated by Hurricane Katrina; there’s even been books written about it. The New York Times covered it in 2008. Still, between 2002 and this year, they never won more than five games — and that includes having future NFL stud Matt Forte on their teams; in 2007, he rushed for 2100 yards and 23 TDs. Tulane was 4-8.
I’m a sucker for a good redemption story, and just on the Tulane side of the ball in this game you’ve got a couple: Curtis Johnson, finally getting a shot as a head coach; Tulane, back in a bowl for the first time in over a decade; Nick Montana, finding his way in NOLA after transferring from a bigger program; and Lorenzo Doss, a little dude who may be the best INT-corner in America.
It’s a little harder to sell the other side — and don’t worry, I don’t plan on doing this for every bowl game by any means — because UL-Lafayette is basically the king of the New Orleans Bowl, having been the last couple of years. They just pounded by South Alabama by three touchdowns, but that was without their main QB (cool name) Terrance Broadway, who threw for 2200 yards and 19 TDs this year, while running for another 400+ and 8 TDs. He’s supposed to be good to go on Dec. 21.
Comes down to this: there are going to be better bowl games on 12/21, and frankly speaking, that’s probably an essential shopping day for many of us anyway, but if you get a chance to check out R+L Carriers, toss it on for a bit. The son of the greatest QB ever (maybe)? A coach who helped recruit Marshall Faulk and Ed Reed to their colleges, now a head coach locked up through 2020 (maybe)? A 5-11 corner getting NFL hype? A program that gave the world its first exciting glance at the spread offense, who spent a decade around Hurricane Katrina building back its on-field relevance? A QB named Broadway? Look, ain’t no one confusing this thing with FSU-Auburn, but as the early run of games go, there could be some interesting things to watch out for.