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No. 23 Tulane hosts ‘explosive’ North Texas as Fritz makes Green Wave history

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tulane coach Willie Fritz is about to make Green Wave history, regardless of whether his team wins or loses this weekend.

He’s set to coach his 95th game for Tulane when the 23rd-ranked Green Wave (5-1, 2-0 AAC) host new league member North Texas (3-3, 1-1) on Saturday, eclipsing the old record of 94 shared by Chris Scelfo and Clark Shaughnessy.

Winning, of course, has a lot to do with why Fritz is in his eighth season coaching at Tulane. The Green Wave have won 17 of the past 20 games — including a victory over USC in last season’s Cotton Bowl — and are in the midst of one of the program’s best runs since the 1930s.

“Anytime you get a chance to stay someplace in this occupation, that’s pretty darn good. I’m proud of that,” Fritz said this week. “It’s a good thing — beats the alternative.”

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North Texas coach Eric Morris said Fritz is “setting a standard that everybody’s kind of working towards in this conference.”

Tulane’s lone loss this season came against No. 13 Ole Miss in a game missed by Green Wave starting quarterback Michael Pratt, who injured his knee on a scramble in the season opener. Pratt’s been back for three games now and is 4-0 as a starter this season.

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Pratt credits his success to “the diversity of our offense and being able to do a lot of different things.”

In a 31-21 victory at Memphis last week, Pratt passed for 259 yards and a touchdown without a turnover. Tulane also gained 144 yards on the ground in a victory seen as key to putting the Green Wave on an inside track to repeat as American Athletic Conference champions.

Tulane is now back on campus for homecoming against a Mean Green squad facing a ranked team for the first time this season.

“This will probably be the best football team we’ve played” this season, North Texas coach Eric Morris said. “Our kids will just be naturally more motivated.”

NOSE FOR THE BALL

Tulane leads the AAC in interceptions with nine and North Texas is tied for second with seven.

Last week. Tulane had two interceptions at Memphis — one by Kam Pedescleaux, a transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette.

“He’s doing a great job. He’s been a very valuable player for us,” Fritz said. “He was a heck of a pickup.”

Lance Robinson leads Tulane with four interceptions.

No one player leads North Texas in pickoffs because each of their seven has been made by a different defender.

FIRM FRONT

Morris said Tulane’s defensive front, which is allowing 77.7 yards rushing per game, will provide a big test for his offense.

“Nobody’s really been able to establish a run game against them,” said Morris, whose team has averaged 195 yards on the ground. “I have to do a good job as a play-caller, the best I can to try to keep them off balance a little bit, because they’re dang good.”

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Fritz, meanwhile, said stopping dual-threat UNT QB Chandler Rogers and an offense that has eclipsed 500 yards four times this season will be no easy task.

“North Texas has got a very, very explosive offense,” Fritz said.

DANNEN’S DEPARTURE

Tulane will hold homecoming festivities without a permanent athletic director after Troy Dannen left about two weeks ago for Washington.

This will be the Green Wave’s first home game in about eight years without Dannen — who hired Fritz — watching from the sideline.

Fritz said Dannen’s sudden midseason departure “hasn’t been a distraction at all for me or the team.”

“I wish him well,” Fritz added. “I’m just happy for him.”

MEASURING UP

North Texas linebacker Caron Kropp sounded bullish on the Mean Green’s chances of staging an upset, even though Tulane is a nearly three-touchdown favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

“Last time we faced a ranked opponent, we knocked them off,” Kropp said, referring to a 45-23 victory over then-No. 15 UTSA to close out the 2021 season. “We’re looking forward to doing that again.

“Football’s football when it comes down to it,” Kropp continued. “We’ve just got to execute at a high level. I don’t care who you’re playing.”

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