Hancock Whitney Stadium is truly a very modern stadium. Tucked to a side of campus that was just waiting for an on-campus stadium to be built, it looks exactly like Ladd-Peebles Stadium would if it had just been built.
It’s red white and blue throughout, with a nice big video board above one end zone terrace, and it was an opportunity to see just what a “new stadium smell” is like. Lots of wide open and clean sightlines, brand new concession stands and covered areas to eat your food.
Today was always going to be the day this stadium opened, but South Alabama got even luckier in the sense that cancellations and delays among multiple other conferences meant a greater opportunity for their newest crown jewel.
Instead of opening amidst a crowded slate of college football games against a local FCS program in Grambling State, the Jaguars faced off against another strong Group of Five program in Tulane. Additionally, the did so on a linear network in the form of ESPN2, with their only direct competition being the Clemson/Wake Forest game on ABC and Citadel at South Florida on ESPNU.
The Jaguars then doubled down on the potential of that moment by opening their season on the road against Southern Miss and making the Golden Eagles look so bad their head coach resigned after only one game.
Tonight was always going to be special, considering all of the hard work that has gone into making this stadium and then this season a success. But it gained a bit more mojo from the show the Jaguars put on in Hattiesburg last week. It looked for a while like they might be creeping towards a ranking, but the stadium wound up being the nicest takeaway from the evening.
Tonight’s game had what could comfortably be described as a chaotic start. Tulane and South Alabama combined for three fumbles in eight plays, and both teams went for it for it on fourth down and failed to convert the first time they crossed midfield.
That was just in the first quarter.
South Alabama eventually pulled ahead in the first half. Desmond Trotter came out and Chase Lovertich came in for a second week in a row, but Lovertich stayed in for the remainder of the first half. As we later learned by Trotter returning for a play and then heading right back out, a shoulder injury took the Jags down to a single option under center.
Lovertich faded late but still finished 18-for-30 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but was still the better quarterback in this game. Keon Howard, Tulane’s senior transfer from Tulane who is also comfortably their most experienced quarterback, had some moments but was largely ineffective.
Howard completed his first five passes and three of his last four, but was 6-for-21 in the interim with a number of balls that just didn’t find targets that were open. Fortunately for the Green Wave, he also had four completions of 20+ yards, which combined with multiple rushes of 20+ yards allowed Tulane to gradually turn a 24-6 deficit with Will Hall and the alternating big hits and slow grind of the Tulane run game.
The defense also started to figure things out as the game wore on, with Cameron Sample and Patrick Johnson each sacking Lovertich twice in the second half for a defense that tallied five for the game, and the Jaguars finished sealing their own fate by forcing the Wave into a punt with a minute and a half remaining, then getting called for a leaping penalty that torpedoed their last hope.
Tulane will now spend the week prepping for their home opener bright and early next Saturday at noon eastern against Navy on ABC. South Alabama will work to figure things out during a long break as they will stay at home and face UAB a week from Thursday in primetime on ESPN.