Tulane Preparations Begin In Birmingham
While Hurricane Gustav was making landfall on the Louisiana coast and strong winds and rain pounded the New Orleans area, the Tulane Green Wave football team practiced today for the first time since evacuating the Crescent City last Saturday. The team shook off any rust from its two off days with a 24-period practice in full pads amid cloudy skies and a steady wind.
Tulane was originally scheduled to fly into Birmingham on Friday, September 5 as part of the team's normal travel plans, but the hurricane forced TU to move up its departure date. The Wave will continue its morning practices at Samford through Thursday. In addition to Seibert Stadium, the team will also use Samford's weight-training facilities, film rooms, locker rooms and other facilities.
Tulane's evacuation because of a hurricane threatening the New Orleans area is nothing new for the Green Wave football program. In fact, the 2008 roster features 24 players that evacuated the campus in 2005 because of deadly Hurricane's Katrina and Rita, and eight players were true freshmen in 2004 when Hurricane Ivan forced the team to evacuate.
The Green Wave (0-0, 0-0 C-USA) opens its 114th season of football this Saturday, Sept. 6, on the road at The University of Alabama (1-0, 0-0 SEC). The Wave is making its first appearance in Tuscaloosa since 1991, but is battling a Southeastern Conference opponent for the fifth straight season. The Tide enters the contest ranked No. 24 in the preseason polls, while the Green Wave is not ranked. Tulane is looking to post its first win in a season opener since a 2002 victory over Southern (37-19) at the Louisiana Superdome. The game at Bryant-Denny Stadium is sold out.
The 2008 Tulane football roster features three players from the state of Alabama, including junior David Kirksey (Mobile), redshirt-freshman Chandler Davis (Gulf Shores) and freshman Eric Jones (Hoover).
Head Coach Bob Toledo's comments following practice Monday at Samford's Seibert Stadium:
On the situation with Hurricane Gustav:
"It's hard to remain normal because of what's happening. It's obviously a distraction, and it's hard to maintain focus, but the players are doing a super job. We as a coaching staff are trying to do enough things with them that it's not drudgery. We're not treating it totally like a bowl game, but we're treating it as a game where we can enjoy ourselves throughout the course of the week, and try to focus on playing a football game next week.
"I feel for these young men out here, they've got families back home. They're trying to call them and talk to them and see where they are at. It's hard to focus because there's a huge distraction and rightfully so. Long ago, somebody said ‘football's not a matter of life and death, it's more important' and I don't agree with that. Football is a game. We're here to have some fun. Life is more important than a football game. It's just a sport."
On if he thinks he has to be a father figure as well as coach:
"Absolutely. I'm trying to keep them a little loose, say some funny things. We're going to try and do some good things. We're taking them bowling, we're going to try and get them out to see a movie. Take them to the mall for some shopping – we can't give them any money, but we can watch them spend theirs. We'll try to keep them together as a team and as a family, and try to keep their minds off of what's happening back in New Orleans."
On cloud-covered practice similar to the stretch of weather in practice earlier this season
"I was beginning to think we never left. Same kind of weather, but it's a little cooler. The weather's great and of course the accommodations are great. (Samford Coach) Pat Sullivan is a great friend of mine here at Samford and I've known Pat for a long, long time. I appreciate Samford's community opening up their facility for us. Of course, Neil Calloway at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he's called me and told me if there's anything they can do for us. That's when you find out who your friends are. It is a game, and here is a head coach we're going to play against down the road. And yet, he's a humane guy. And that's what makes this thing all kind of special."
On opening against Alabama
"It's always difficult, but it's really difficult having to start the season against an opponent like the one we're going to play. We're going to play a team that I think is outstanding. They have a great coaching staff, great players, and a great recruiting class. They did an unbelievable number on Clemson. It's going to be tough. It's going to be an uphill battle, but the big thing is that if we can focus, try to give our best effort, be competitive, and learn from the experience, that's all I can really ask."
"Watching them the other night… it's kind of scary. Not only do they have a great football team coming back, but they have the number one recruiting class in the nation. I look at their freshman linebacker, I look at their freshman wide receiver, I look at their freshman tailback… and then I look at the guys who are already there. Nick's (Alabama Coach Nick Saban) done a great job putting together a football team. Their offensive coordinator, a young guy out of Fresno State, has really put that thing together well offensively. They look a little bit like us schematically."
On playing a team which has already played
"I believe anytime you're playing your second game and the other team is playing their first, you have an advantage. Everybody talks about you have the most improvement from your first game to your second game. And you're talking about Alabama, a program and a team that is outstanding. We're not there yet. We're trying to build this thing back up. We're a young football team and hopefully we'll be a competitive football team."
On Preparing for Alabama
"Well, we've got their film and we put a game plan together. We've practiced some of the things we thought they'd do, in certain periods. We watched the game on TV the other night to see if they were doing anything different. Defensively, they are pretty much the same. Nick is defensive oriented. Of course with a new offensive coordinator, they are different offensively. Their quarterback has really grasped their system. We've got a plan, we looked at what they did, and then we tried to tweak the plan based on what they did differently [against Clemson]."
Tulane redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevin Moore:
"It's been fantastic. Our whole staff and our coaching staff were so prepared. We had a plan and it went through without a hitch. We got out of New Orleans, got here and everyone in the city of Birmingham, and the staff at the Marriott has been great. This coaching staff and athletic department here at Samford, opening up their facilities, have been tremendous. We're trying to simulate a normal week. We know it's not normal, but everyone I've been around has done as good of a job as you could ask for."
On the coaches demeanor
"They've been calm. They have tried to treat it as just a normal week as much as possible. Nothing extraordinary is happening here. Of course we're all worried about our homes and families back in New Orleans. But we've done a good job [keeping calm]. Yesterday was Sunday, so we had a big breakfast and then went to a church service if we wanted. We had some down time, the guys have had fun and played around. We had some fun on the bus and watched some movies on the way up. It's been a good trip. But today was time to get back to work, and I thought we had a good practice.
"Once you get on the football field, you're so used to the normal practice tempo and routine. The field you're practicing on doesn't really change much."
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