With eyes still on the 2017 NFL Draft, Tanzel Smart and Tulane are building through their defense in the college football ranks
The Navy Midshipmen were the fifth-ranked rushing offense entering last Saturday’s matchup with Tanzel Smart and the Tulane Green Wave. The Midshipmen were expected to dispatch of their conference foe with ease. But Smart and his teammates were not going to go down without a fight.
Tulane eventually fell to the Midshipmen in the final minutes of the game, but the defensive effort of the Green Wave stunted the Navy option attack all night. “Defensively, we did a super job,” Smart said when asked about his team’s effort. “That last drive was just—we could’ve stopped them. I never blame anyone, so I’ll take [the blame]. If we had that drive we would’ve won the game.”
“That drive” that Smart spoke about was a 10-play, 72 yard touchdown drive. Navy quarterback Will Worth rush eight times for 50 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The 50 yards on the drive accounted for nearly half of Worth’s 113 total using yards on the night.
Aside from the drive, Navy was able to severely limit the Navy rushing attack that entered the game averaging 331 yards per game on the ground. Tulane was able to hold Navy to just 287 yards rushing, showing their toughness and strength on the inside. Even with the positive effort, Smart and his teammates know they need to continue to build towards wins.
“It’s never exciting to lose,” Smart said when asked about the feeling after the game. “But it’s exciting that we’re playing like we’re playing. We just need to build each week. We’re not going to be excited until we start getting [wins].
“We know we have to finish games. We play hard for three quarters – three and a half – then it comes to that last drive. That’s when you find the real players, man. And that’s why we gotta finish.”
In the matchup with Navy, Smart collected six tackles and one tackle for a loss on the game. He can continue to build on that performance when they face another run-heavy team in the Louisiana Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns. They enter the game with the nation’s sixth-leading rusher, Elijah McGuire. The senior back has 408 yards on 56 carries and one touchdown.
“We’ve gotta get up field and attack, but we need to contain him,” Smart said when asked about slowing down the Rajin’ Cajuns rushing attack. “We gotta keep our run lanes tight. Can’t let them get too wide, and we’ve gotta wrap up when we get there.”
The Green Wave have the chance to move to 2-2 with a win this weekend,and they also have a chance to cap a three-game home stand at 2-1. The message around the team has been about progression and growth—a message Smart continues to follow.
“I’m happy with how I’m playing, but I still have a long way to go, man. I try not to think about [personal stats] too much, but I feel like I’m progressing well. It’s a blessing to start the season well, I just need to keep progressing. Watch some film, get some extra work in and keep going.”
Smart currently has 11 tackles on the season with 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He has started to gain recognition in some draft circles, but remains humble and blocks out the outside noise. Smart and his teammates know they have a steep hill to climb, but they are already exceeding the expectations of some pundits—and will continue to work and progress.