Green Wave Faces Cougars Saturday

Last week, Tulane snapped a three-game losing streak with a 59-55 win over UAB in a wild Homecoming affair at Tad Gormley Stadium. The 114 points scored is second in Conference USA history for points in a game by two teams. The last of Wave QB Lester Ricard's school record six touchdown passes proved to be the game-winner as Ricard connected with Chris Bush on a 12-yard TD hook-up with just 27 seconds left. The win also featured a successful fake punt, a 53-yard field goal, and a 75-yard punt r

Tulane takes to the road for the third time in the last four weeks as the Green Wave travels to Houston to face the Cougars. Tulane, coming off its first Conference USA win of the year, is looking for its first road win of the season in its second-to-last road contest of 2004.

Last week, Tulane snapped a three-game losing streak with a 59-55 win over UAB in a wild Homecoming affair at Tad Gormley Stadium. The 114 points scored is second in Conference USA history for points in a game by two teams. The last of Wave QB Lester Ricard's school record six touchdown passes proved to be the game-winner as Ricard connected with Chris Bush on a 12-yard TD hook-up with just 27 seconds left. The win also featured a successful fake punt, a 53-yard field goal, and a 75-yard punt return TD by Tulane.

The Green Wave and Cougars, future foes in the Western Division of Conference USA, meet for the 10th time with Houston holding a slim 5-4 edge in the all-time series. Tulane has won four of the last six meetings, but fell to the Cougars, 45-42, at Tad Gormley Stadium a year ago. Seven of the previous nine meetings have come as members of Conference USA as the teams have met every year except one (2001) since beginning league play in 1996. Tulane earned a 34-13 win on its last visit to Robertson Stadium in 2002, but is 2-3 at Houston all-time.

A year ago, Houston spoiled Tulane's Homecoming at Tad Gormley Stadium with a 45-42 win over the Green Wave. In that game, the Cougars jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead, then held off a TU comeback attempt, sacking J.P. Losman as time expired. UH held the ball for 43 minutes and Tulane turned the ball over three times. The Green Wave scored a pair of TDs in the final six minutes but could not overcome its early deficit.

The Green Wave is 25-32 (.439) in Conference USA play over the last eight seasons after collecting its first league win of 2004, in four tries, versus UAB. Tulane posted a 3-5 mark in league games in 2003, including a 1-3 mark at home and a 2-2 record on the road. Tulane will meet eight of its 10 C-USA comrades in 2004, skipping USF and Cincinnati for the second straight year.

Tulane, with the 1998 C-USA football crown to its credit, and Houston, are two of six members of Conference USA that will remain with the league next season when the latest round of conference-hopping continues. The league will bid farewell to football members Army, Cincinnati, Louisville, USF and TCU while adding Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UCF and UTEP. Next season, Conference USA will consist of 12 schools competing in all sports and will hold its first football championship game. Tulane will play in a division with Rice, SMU, Tulsa, UTEP and Houston and will play crossover opponents Southern Miss, UCF and Marshall next year.

Now in his sixth season at the helm of the Tulane program Chris Scelfo is the longest-tenured coach at Tulane (in seasons) since Andy Pilney, who coached the Wave for eight years from 1954-61. In addition to Pilney, only Hall-of-Famer Clark Shaughnessy (1915-20, 1922-26) with 11, has more seasons than Scelfo's six and the New Iberia, La. native is only the fifth mentor all-time to coach six seasons at Tulane. Scelfo, the 36th head coach in Tulane football history, ranks third all-time in games coached with 66 and is tied for fifth all-time at Tulane in coaching victories.

In one game, quarterback Lester Ricard, a redshirt sophomore who is seeing his first collegiate action this season after sitting out the past two years, put his name atop the Tulane record books, ahead of his vaunted predecessors Shaun King, Patrick Ramsey and J.P. Losman. With six touchdown passes versus UAB, Ricard set the school record for touchdown passes in a game, and tied the Conference USA record. Eight times previously, a Tulane QB had thrown five TD passes in a game, including twice each by Losman and Ramsey. The record had stood since 1952.

Ricard also joined Patrick Ramsey as the only Tulane quarterbacks to throw for 400 or more yards in a game as he completed 36-of-49 passes for 417 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions against UAB. The 417 yards rank third on the Tulane single-game list while his 36 completions is tied for second-most all-time.

Ricard posted some eye-popping statistics for the game, but his second half numbers are even more impressive. The Amite, La. native completed 18-of-21 passes (85.7%) in the second half for 199 yards and three touchdowns. He had a string of 10 straight completions from his last pass of the first half to the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter. On Tulane's game-winning drive, he completed seven-of-eight passes for 67 yards, including six straight completions to end the game.

Ricard's performance versus UAB vaulted his season passing efficiency rating -- which rewards touchdown passes and penalizes interceptions -- some 18 points, from 126.33 to 144.52 as the sophomore is now up to 21st in the nation in that category.

Senior Roydell Williams has had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season so far. Through Tulane's first three games of the season (he sat out the Florida A&M game), Williams had just one reception for 32 yards with no touchdowns. However, in the last three games, Williams has totalled 25 catches for 392 and seven touchdowns. Williams was again brilliant against UAB with a season-high 11 catches for 138 yards and his second straight three-TD game. In his last three games, Williams has totalled 140, 114 and 138 receiving yards on eight, six and 11 catches, respectively. His touchdowns versus UAB came on plays of 29, 22 and 24 yards.

With back-to-back three-TD catch games, Roydell Williams needs just one more receiving score to tie JaJuan Dawson's all-time record for career touchdown catches with 31. Williams' 11 grabs last week lifted him into a tie with Mewelde Moore for third place on the career receptions list with 189, still well behind Marc Zeno (236) and Dawson (234), on that Tulane chart. Williams needs 195 yards to become the third member of the Tulane 3,000-yard receiving club, joining Zeno (3,725) and Dawson (3,048).
br> Sophomore Fred Smith continues to excel in the return game. His 75-yard punt return touchdown versus UAB was the first of his career, and the first for Tulane since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl (by Lynaris Elpheage). That play lifted Smith's punt return average to 14.2 yards, which ranks second in the league and 16th nationally. His 228 punt return yards this year are already the 10th-most in school history and more than Tulane collected all of last year. As a team, Tulane ranks 22nd in the nation in punt return after finishing the 2003 season 96th.

Defensive back Israel "Izzy" Route continues to excel on special teams for the Green Wave while also making an impact as the Tulane nickel back. The sophomore has caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles -- all on special teams plays. He made his second fumble recovery last week versus UAB on a muffed punt, giving Tulane field position at the UAB 24. In addition, he broke up a pair of passes and now ranks second on the team with three PBU's on the year. At East Carolina, Route sparked Tulane's second-half comeback by causing a fumble on the second half kickoff which he then picked up and brought back 14 yards for a touchdown. It was his second caused fumble of the game, the first came on punt coverage in the first half.

Smith and Route were just two of several special teams standouts for Tulane last Saturday in the win over UAB. Early in the second quarter, the Green Wave successfully executed a fake punt as up-back Joey Dawson rushed for seven yards on fourth-and four from the UAB 47 to extend an eventual touchdown drive. At the end of the half, walk-on kicker and redshirt freshman Nick Beucher responded to a late Blazers' TD with a 53-yard field goal to close the UAB lead to seven points at halftime. The kick matched the longest ever in Conference USA and tied as the third-longest in Tulane history. Beucher also hit all eight of his critical PAT tries in the game.

Already Tulane's most famous "Bush" in this presidential election year, wide receiver Chris Bush is gaining acclaim in a whole new way this month. The senior is featured in the November 2004 isue of Cosmopolitan Magazine as one of the "50 Hottest Bachelors in the U.S." The magazine's editors selected one man from each of the 50 states and Bush, who was nominated by a friend, earned the nod from Louisiana.

Bush is also turning heads on the football field this season as he established season highs with seven catches for 97 yards and two TDS in the UAB game, including the game-winning score with 27 seconds on the clock. He has caught at least one pass in Tulane's last 18 games and ranks second on the team with 19 catches for 349 yards and four scores. His 18.4 yards per catch leads the team.

After playing through a series of injuries last year, linebacker Anthony Cannon leads Tulane in every defensive category this season. His 59 tackles rank fifth in Conference USA, while he is also the Green Wave's leader in tackles for loss (6) and in sacks (4). His four sacks are his single season best. The junior also has Tulane's only interception of the season, at Memphis. At East Carolina, Cannon showed his speed by running down ECU punt returner Travis Williams from behind, preventing a Pirate touchdown. He tied his career high with 16 tackles, nine solo, in the Southern Miss game.

Tulane's 59 points versus UAB were the second-highest total ever for the Green Wave in a Conference USA game behind only the 64 points scored in a 1997 win over Louisville. It was the most points scored by Tulane since 1998 when the Wave put 63 points on the scoreboard versus Louisiana Tech in the final regular season game of the year. The 114 combined points by Tulane and UAB rank second in C-USA history and were the most points ever scored in a Tulane game, surpassing the 110 points totalled in a 63-47 Wave loss at Virginia in 1968.

Sophomore Chris Beckman, who was named to the Watch List for the 2004 Ray Guy Award, has shown not only the strong leg he displayed in his freshman season, but also great touch. After a season-high 53-yard punt versus UAB, his 43.2-yard punting average leads Conference USA and ranks 16th nationally. Ten of his 31 punts have landed inside the opponents' 20-yard line, five of those inside the 10. Remarkably, not a single Tulane punt has gone into the end zone for a touchback this season.

Tulane got its first touchdown on a punt block return since 1999 when Bubba Terranova blocked East Carolina's first punt of the game. Terranova nearly caught the ball with his stomach, but Gabe Ratcliff covered the ball in the end zone for the score. Although Alton Widemon blocked a punt for TU versus Houston last year, the last blocked punt returned for a TD by Tulane was on Nov. 11, 1999 versus SMU when Mitch Mouton scored on an 11-yard return after Glenn Lemoine's block.

Tulane's young defense - the Green Wave starts just two seniors on that side of the ball -- has more quarterback sacks -- 19 -- than it totalled all of last year (15). Anthony Cannon's four sacks are more than Tulane's team leader of a year ago, while freshman defensive tackle Avery Williams has contributed 3.5 sacks. Eleven players have been in on sacks for Tulane this year. Versus Florida A&M, the Green Wave defense collected 11 sacks, the highest single game total since at least 1989.

The Green Wave is 11-of-14 in the red zone this season with 11 touchdowns, but the real story is outside the "zone". The Green Wave has scored 11 touchdowns on plays of 20 yards or longer, including at least one in every game this year. Lester Ricard has thrown nine touchdown passes of longer than 20 yards, including a 59-yarder to Chris Bush versus Mississippi State and 37 and 36 yard touchdown passes to Roydell Williams. His six TD passes in the UAB game included tosses of 29, 22, 34 and 24 yards. Add Fred Smith's 75-yard punt return, Ray Boudreaux's 25-yard TD run and a pair of long field goals by Nick Beucher, and the Wave has 13 scoring plays of longer than 20 yards.

Nicknamed "Shaq" after shattering a basketball backboard as a youngster, Jovon Jackson leads Tulane in rushing with 461 yards on 96 carries and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jackson, who had caught just 10 career passes for 31 yards entering the season, ranks third on the team with 16 catches for 116 yards in 2004. He had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games versus Florida A&M and Southern Miss, shredding the FAMU defense for 134 yards rushing and three touchdowns before adding 112 yards on 18 carries versus Southern Miss, including a season-long 46-yard run. The junior is one of only 14 players in Tulane history to compile three career 100-yard games.

Six games into the season, eight members of the 2004 recruiting class and four redshirt freshmen are regular contributors to the Green Wave line-up. The true freshman group includes starting defensive linemen Avery Williams and Antonio Harris, as well as second teamers Frank Morton (DT), Gabe Ratcliff (TE), Ade Tuyo (FB), Matt Forté (RB) and Joe Goosby (SS). Among the redshirts, Nick Beucher has earned the starting job at kicker while Ray Boudreaux is the first team fullback and Richard Irvin is the No. 2 quarterback. Redshirt Carlis Jackson and true freshman Michael Cox have seen action on special teams this season.

The Green Wave defensive line is once again one of the "greenest" positions on the team. A year ago, Tulane lost eight key players off the defensive line, and had to move a wide receiver and a linebacker to defensive end. In February, Tulane signed eight freshmen defensive linemen to fill the gap. Seven of those freshmen have now played and Avery Williams and Antonio Harris are starters who have compiled 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks between them. Tulane has NO junior or senior defensive linemen on its active roster for 2004. Second team end Michael Purcell, a redshirt sophomore, is the "old man" of the bunch.

Tulane's 2004 active roster, including walk-ons, features only 10 seniors and 17 juniors. Though the senior class is small, seven (FS Joey Dawson, LB Wesley Heath, LB Blake Baker, OT Jimmy Kosienski, WR Chris Bush, WR Roydell Williams and WR Carl Davis) of the 10 have started on offense or defense. The rest of Tulane's 92-man roster is composed of freshmen (true and redshirt) and sophomores, for a total of 66 underclassmen, or more than two-thirds of the 2004 team.

The Tulane-Louisville game scheduled for Sept. 18 in New Orleans and postponed when the city was evacuated that week in preparation for Hurricane Ivan, will be played as the final game of the regular season for both teams, on either Dec. 3rd or 4th in the Louisiana Superdome. The last time Tulane's regular season stretched into December was 1993, when the Green Wave concluded the year Dec. 4 at Hawaii.

Tulane is still looking to even out its turnover margin as the Green Wave has turned the ball over 11 times on eight interceptions and three fumbles, while its opponents have given the ball away just six times (five fumbles, one INT). Of the five fumbles Tulane has recovered this year, three have come on special teams. The Wave still has only one interception on the year. However, the Green Wave has given up 40 points (on 6 TDs) on its 11 turnovers while scoring 34 points (on 5 TDs) on its six turnovers collected.

Each of Tulane's last three starting quarterbacks is currently in the NFL -- Shaun King (Tulane starter 1996-98) with the Arizona Cardinals, Patrick Ramsey (1999-2001) of the Washington Redskins and J.P. Losman (2002-03) with the Buffalo Bills. Ramsey (32nd in 2002) and Losman (22nd in 2004 were both first-round draft choices. With its last three starting QBs in the NFL, Tulane ranks fifth among all Division I-A schools, behind only Michigan, Florida, Washington and Oregon.


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