NEW ORLEANS, La. – The Tulane University football team is ready to get back to work after an unexpected week-long layoff due to Hurricane Ivan. The Green Wave squad defeated Florida A&M in its last game on Sept. 11, but its Sept. 18th game with Louisville was postponed due to the potential weather conditions. The entire University was shut down last Tuesday and head coach Chris Scelfo oversaw the dispersal of his team to areas of safety out of the path of the hurricane. The team returned to action on Sunday afternoon with its first practice since prior to the A&M contest.
Tulane is now preparing to host Southern Miss on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at the Louisiana Superdome. The Golden Eagles also had an unexpected bye-week as their game with California was postponed as well.
Tickets for this weekend's game, "The Battle for the Bell," are currently available by visiting the Tulane Box Office or by calling 504-861-WAVE.
On Tuesday morning, head football coach Chris Scelfo held his third weekly press conference of the 2004 season at the Hall of Fame Room of Tulane's Wilson Center.
Chris Scelfo Opening Statement
"Thank you all for being here today. I am glad that nothing catastrophic happened here but there are a lot of people that did have problems, especially down the gulf coast. My heart goes out to them and their families. Our two kids from that area, Antonio Mason (Mobile, Ala.) and Billy Harrison (Pensacola, Fla.), and their families came out of it safely. All the other players made it back safely and when you are responsible for other people's children it is always a concern that they are safe at all times. Hopefully we can get back and do what we have to do and that is go to school and play football.
"On this week's game, Southern Miss is the defending conference champion and they are playing like it. They beat a very good Nebraska team. They are very physical and fast, and have been successful in all three phases. They don't make mistakes; they wait for you to make mistakes. They have a lot of character, and it is going to be a challenge for us.
"We resumed practice on Sunday, and after being off since the past Saturday we had several kids that didn't know how to put their pads back in their pants. As practice evolved on Sunday, I feel we got something accomplished and we will hit the field today and try to continue to improve. We have to get back in rhythm and the leadership of the team has to understand what is at stake, that being our first conference game and will also give us an idea of where we are this early in the season. From the standpoint of measuring up to where we need to be and where we have to go will be critical. We haven't been able to sustain any rhythm, any continuity, up to this point in the season because of the things that happened this past week. Hopefully, our kids will be able to overcome adversity during the course of the week.
How much of a concern is it that they have been away for so long?
It is a huge concern, because we are not a junior or senior laden team and that is the biggest reason. We have a bunch of guys that since August 9th, we have asked to get better every day and I think have. Then to take off a week, it really hurt us. We are basically back to square one with them, but they are excited to be back and that is a true positive thing for the team.
How did you handle the hurricane?
I stayed here, got my family out of town. We had one player that we put on the student bus to get out of town to Jackson. I stayed back with two of our kids, Patrick Benford and Taurean Brown, that couldn't get out. They were on their way to Houston, got to Baton Rouge, got tired and turned back and did the right thing. We spent the night in the Reily Center on Wednesday night.
So it was a Slumber party?
You can call it that if you want to but if you ever invite me one like that I'm not going, but I will send you a thank you note for inviting me.
What did you do to pass time?
We watched Gladiator, which is a very good movie. He is a tough guy, who ever he is I would like him on my team.
Why is Southern Miss always such a big game for Tulane every year?
I think it is a respected rivalry. We have tremendous respect for there program and I think we have earned their respect. It is a true battle, a lot of our players know their players and we are only separated by 120 miles or so.
With Southern Miss being able to accept junior college players, does that put you at a disadvantage?
How well do you have to play this game to win?
We are going to have to play as well as we can play. Fundamentally, we are going to have to do everything right. We are going to have to take care of the football, create turnovers. We are going to have to play as well as we can to have chance, and I think by where we are at right now, that is going to be the case each week.
Can you talk about Southern Miss, offensively and defensively?
Their offensive line is very big and talented. From an offensive standpoint, their quarterback seems to be very comfortable right now, they have opened it up a lot and are doing a great job of taking care of the football, he is doing a good job of making good decisions. Defensively, you can look at any tape, they play hard and run to the ball. They have eight or nine hits at the ball every time it is snapped. They are talented, but a standard that stands out at you is the effort they give when the ball is snapped. That is something we are trying to get established and are going to have to get established.
Can you measure how much momentum the storm has taken away from the team?
I think we will have a better feel on Saturday about how much it has taken away from us. I thought our players felt good about themselves after the win, they gained a little confidence and momentum.
Do you think a win on Saturday will kick start the team like it did two years ago?
That win was later in the season, and by us playing them this early on in the season, our focus has to be on us and how we do each day in practice more then anything right now. We are at a point right now that we have to improve just a little bit every day. The biggest game right now is this one because it is right now. For us to improve on Saturdays is for us to improve Monday through Friday, and if we do that we will be a better football team in November then we are in September.
Can you talk about the defense against the run?
I think any time you go into a football game you have to stop the run. For us to gang-tackle and get hats to the ball is no more important this Saturday as it was last Saturday and will be the following. Those are fundamental things that we have to do defensively to give us opportunity to have success on their side.
Do you think it will be harder this week?
We are playing the defending conference champions, but I think our team is excited to play this game and looking forward to see where they stack up.
Do you think that some of the nagging injures were able to heal due to the time off?
Everybody seemed to be healthy on Saturday. Some guys still have some bumps and bruises and some guys will have to play with pain all year. The good players are the ones that can get the pain out of their minds and think about the task at hand, and the ones that aren't tough can't do that whether you take a month off or six months off.
How do you think Southern Miss will come at you on defense at the beginning of the game?
I don't think it matters, because regardless of what kind of team you are playing everyone has a responsibility on the defensive line. It is etched out for them and I don't think it matters to those guys what type of team style we are playing against.
Chris Scelfo Holds Third Weekly Press Conference
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