College football outlook: BYU's up-tempo transformation beginning to yield results
The Green Wave went 2-10 last year, and Johnson admits there were moments he wondered what he had gotten himself into.
"Well, I almost called (coach) Sean Payton and (general manager) Mickey Loomis and asked for or my job back a couple times," he said with a laugh.
Johnson said he saw signs of a new and improved attitude among his players during spring practice, and if there was a turning point this season it came after the Green Wave lost 41-39 at home to South Alabama in the second game of the season. Tulane trailed 21-7 after the first quarter and 31-19 at half, and then had a chance to tie the game in the final two minutes but a 2-point conversion failed.
"I think they gained some confidence," Johnson said of his players.
The Green Wave have specialized in winning close games. Their last three have been decided by a touchdown or less.
"It's almost like we're playing Beamer Ball," Johnson said, referring a style Virginia Tech and coach Frank Beamer made famous. "Tough on defense, creating turnovers, very good on special teams and we have the best kicker in the world."
All-American Cairo Santos has missed only one kick under 50 yards this season and is at 82 percent on field goals for his career.
In a city dominated by the Saints and LSU, Tulane is starting to get some attention. Johnson is trying to keep his team grounded with a saying he stole from Payton.
"We can't eat the cheese," he said. "We're the same team that didn't win any games. We're just playing better. Their girlfriends and their parents are telling them how great they are. They have more girlfriends now than they ever had. Let's not eat the cheese. Let's have our single-minded focus."
— Missouri kicker Andrew Baggett, who hit the goal post on potential, game-tying 24-yard field goal in the Tigers' double-overtime loss to South Carolina can look to Navy's Nick Sloan for inspiration. Sloan missed an extra point in overtime two weeks ago to end a 45-44 double-OT loss to Toledo. On Saturday, Sloan kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to beat Pittsburgh, 24-21.
— Garrett Gilbert, once expected to be Texas' next great quarterback, is putting it all together in his final season at SMU. The senior quarterback leads the nation in total offense at 408.3 yards per game.
— A season that started with so much promise is getting away from Northwestern (4-4, 0-4). Injuries have played a part in the Wildcats' four-game losing streak, which could get much worse. They play at Nebraska on Saturday, then face Michigan and Michigan State before finishing up with Illinois. The good news? Maybe a down year will keep other schools from trying to steal away coach Pat Fitzgerald.
HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH
One nonvoters top three.
1) Jameis Winston, Florida State
2) Marcus Mariota, Oregon
3) Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Championship game — Alabama vs. Oregon.
Orange Bowl — Florida State vs. Wisconsin.
Sugar Bowl — Clemson vs. Missouri.
Rose Bowl — Stanford vs. Ohio State.
Fiesta Bowl — Baylor vs. UCF.
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