Playing Again

Tulane didn't play a game last week because of an early open date on its schedule. Maybe it needed a week to recover from not only a 45-10 loss at Tulsa but also the shock of the major injury to senior safety Devon Walker.

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Walker's status remains mostly unknown as his family has asked for privacy. But a spinal injury suffered during the Tulsa game has been a main focal point for the Green Wave the past two weeks. Walker remained in a Tulsa hospital earlier this week and was moved to an undisclosed rehabilitation facility.

"He has asked to see the teammates and the teammates have obviously asked to see him, but with transferring him to a rehabilitation facility that's not in the immediate future," said Tulane team physician Greg Stewart, also earlier in the week. "As soon as everything is worked out, then yes. Once Devon is squared away, especially once he gets back to New Orleans, he is certainly anxious to see his teammates and I know his teammates are anxious to see him."

First-year head coach Curtis Johnson of the Green Wave said his players are adjusting as best they can to a difficult situation.

"Thanks for your concerns for Devon," Johnson said. "The rest of the team, we're doing pretty good - about as well as can be expected."

Ole Miss will wear the initials "DW" on its helmets in Saturday's game in support of Walker.

Johnson wonders how his team will respond once it gets on the field. A white-out is planned for the Ole Miss game as Tulane fans have been asked to wear white shirts in honor of Walker.

"We've taken every precautionary measure around here and around the university," Johnson said. "We've done everything that we possibly could so that these guys can move in a direction to do what they love to do. They've moved in a much better direction. All of a sudden now, they've seen the film. They see that the team we're playing against is a pretty good football team - it's a really good football team. They're eager to get back to things as normal as they can and get back to playing football."

Tulane will reportedly start a freshman quarterback in the contest. Devin Powell will get the nod after performing well against Tulsa in the second half, basically taking over for senior Ryan Griffin who has been injured. Tulane last started a freshman at quarterback in 1995 when Shaun King got the nod against Ole Miss in Oxford, a 20-17 Rebel victory.

Devin Powell
File Photo

"The first game of the season, we had a situation where we really wanted to play (Powell) against Rutgers," Johnson said. "The game kind of went back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and it wasn't the right situation to put him in. He was going to play against Tulsa and he's probably going to play in every game we have this year. He's a wonderful player. I like what the young man is doing. He's a big plus for us."

Powell came in against Tulsa in the second half and completed 8-of-16 passes for 110 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant is one of 11 players to catch at least one pass so far this season and leads the way with 11 receptions and 219 yards while sharing the touchdown lead at one score along with sophomore running back Rob Kelley. Kelley paces the Green Wave ground attack with 48 yards on 17 carries.

Tulane is averaging 219.5 yards of total offense per game (7.5 rushing/212.0 passing) while giving up 480.0 per contest (257.5 rushing/222.5 passing).

"We have to run the football," Johnson said of his offensive production. "Instead of using one to set up the other, you have to be balanced. With a young team, what you don't want to do - like the first game (24-12 loss to Rutgers) - is you don't want to be behind in down-and-distance. That's one of the things we did in the first game. In the next game, we got into a track meet with a track team. You've got to play balanced, play our football game. Run and have a balanced attack. If we can stay balanced, I think we can play with anyone."

Defensively, junior linebacker Zach Davis is one of four players with double-digit tackle totals with 15 (10 solo, 5 assists) while sophomore safety Sam Scofield and senior safety Shakiel Smith follow closely with 12 each. Senior cornerback Ryan Travis leads the Green Wave with a pair of take-aways - one interception and one fumble recovery - and junior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley has 1.0 sack among a pair of tackles for loss.

Johnson said he knows 2-1 Ole Miss will come to New Orleans looking to rebound from its loss to Texas.

"When you expect to win and you don't win, you kind of do some soul searching and you just try to figure out what needs to be done," he said. "I think they're going to come in here, they're going to be ready and they're going to be fired up and ready to play. We just have to match their intensity and play along with them. They'll be ready and I know we'll be ready to play. We just have to match that intensity and play our best game. Hopefully it's good enough."

(Tulane athletics media relations contributed information to this story.)

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