The Tulane-Louisville game that was postponed due to Hurricane Ivan has been rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4 at 1:30 p.m. in the Louisiana Superdome. The game was originally scheduled for Sept. 18 but was postponed when New Orleans was evacuated the week of the game.
The Green Wave has enjoyed success in New Orleans this season, posting a 3-1 record in its four home games to date, including a 2-1 mark in the Superdome and a Homecoming victory at Tad Gormley Stadium.
Tulane is playing its 30th season in the Louisiana Superdome in 2004 and has an all-time record of 78-89 (a .467 winning percentage) in the building. The Wave has defeated Florida A&M and Navy in the Superdome this season while falling to Southern Miss. Since the beginning of the 1997 season, Tulane is 29-14 (.674) in its home stadium.
After falling to Houston by a 24-3 score on Oct. 30, Tulane put together its most complete performance of the season in a 42-10 domination of Navy last week in the Superdome. Navy was 7-1 coming into the game. Tulane QB Lester Ricard completed 18-of-19 passes (more on that later in this release), four for touchdowns, while the Green Wave defense limited the normally potent Middies' attack to 10 points, seven of which came after a blocked field goal gave Navy possession on the Tulane 12.
Tulane and Army meet for the ninth straight season and for the 13th time overall Saturday, with Tulane holding a slight 6-5-1 edge in the series. Last year's 50-33 Wave victory in West Point snapped a three-game losing streak to the Black Knights, which claimed its only win in New Orleans in 2002, by a 14-10 score. Prior to that, Tulane won three straight from 1997-99. The teams played to a 0-0 tie in the Big Easy in their first ever meeting in 1953.
A year ago, Tulane claimed a 50-33 victory at West Point thanks to 350 yards passing and five passing TDs by quarterback J.P. Losman and an opportunistic defense that picked off five passes and picked up three fumbles. One of those fumbles was returned 48 yards for a score by TU's Joey Dawson while Roydell Williams caught three TD passes. Tulane jumped out to a 22-6 lead before holding off a game Army team in the second half.
The Green Wave is 25-33 (.431) in Conference USA play all-time after claiming its first C-USA win of 2004 versus UAB. The Wave is 1-1 in C-USA home games this year and is 1-4 in the league overall. Tulane will meet eight of its 10 current 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, is one of six current 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 in 2005.
The Green Wave has played both Navy and Army in a season seven times, including each of the last six. However, the two service academies have never turned up on the Tulane schedule in back-to-back weeks as they do in 2004. Only once has Tulane defeated both service academies in the same year -- the undefeated 1998 season. On the other hand, the Green Wave has lost to both Navy and Army in the same season just one time, in 1996.
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 68 and is fifth all-time at the school in coaching victories.
With the help of a veteran receiving corps, Tulane quarterback Lester Ricard's performance last Saturday definitely falls into the "did you see that?" category. Ricard completed a school record 18-of-19 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, including an 87-yard TD toss to Roydell Williams that tied for the second-longest in school history. He completed his last 14 passes of the game before giving way to back-up Richard Irvin in the fourth quarter.
Ricard was so hot that his only incompletion was a pass he threw away. In addition, two other completions were wiped out by penalties. His efficiency rating of 307.01 in the game is the second-highest single-game number posted in Division I-A this season, behind only a 368.56 day by San Jose State's Dale Rogers versus Rice on October 2.
By completing 94.7 percent (18-of-19) of his passes in the Navy game, Lester Ricard broke the Tulane and Conference USA records for completion percentage in a game, putting his name in the record books for the second time in the last three weeks. The old record for completion percentage in a game was 90.9 percent (10-of-12) by Richie Petitbon vs. Texas in 1958 (min. 10 attempts) while Lee Roberts of Southern Miss (14-of-16 vs. ECU in 1996) held the C-USA mark.
Versus UAB on Oct. 23, Ricard became the first Green Wave QB to throw six touchdown passes in a game, a feat which also tied the Conference USA record. Eight times previously, a Tulane QB had thrown five TD passes in a game, including twice each by current NFLers J.P. Losman and Patrick Ramsey. The record had stood since 1952.
Ricard wasn't the only record-setter for Tulane last week as senior receiver Roydell Williams became the school's all-time leader in touchdown catches when he scored on plays of 87 and 28 yards versus Navy. Williams' TD grabs were the 31st and 32nd of his Green Wave career, pushing him past JaJuan Dawson on the Tulane all-time list. The LaPlace, La. product needs one more touchdown catch to tie Ibn Green of Louisville (1996-99) for the Conference USA career record.
Williams does more than score touchdowns, the senior became just the third receiver in Tulane history to surpass the 200-catch and 3,000-yard marks last week as he now has 201 grabs for 3,029 yards in 45 career games. Those numbers rank him third on the Tulane all-time charts behind Marc Zeno and JaJuan Dawson. Williams needs just 20 yards to surpass Dawson and move into second in receiving yardage with Zeno's mark of 3,725 yards seemingly safe. Williams' numbers rank him sixth and fourth all-time in Conference USA for catches and receiving yards.
After a slow start to the 2004 season (one catch for 32 yards in Tulane's first three games), all-star receiver Roydell Williams has been magnificent over the last five games. During that time, he has caught 37 passes for 616 yards and nine touchdowns. Those per game averages of 7.40 catches and 123.2 yards would rank seventh and third, nationally, and first and second in the league.
Williams has totalled over 100 receiving yards in four of his last five games and has at least six catches in each of those contests. Versus UAB, the senior tallied a season-high 11 catches for 138 yards and his second straight three-TD game. In consecutive outings versus East Carolina, Memphis and UAB, Williams totalled 140, 114 and 138 receiving yards. After a six-catch, 76-yard day at Houston, Williams collected a season-high 148 yards on six catches with a pair of scores versus Navy. His 87-yard TD catch in the second quarter was the longest of his career.
While Chris Beckman's 43.2-yard punting average leads the league and ranks 19th nationally, even more amazing is the fact that NOT ONE of his 39 punts have gone into the end zone for a touchback. Beckman has landed 15 punts inside the 20-yard line, with seven of those pinning opponents inside the 10. The sophomore has 11 punts of 50-plus yards, including season-long 55-yard punts in the last two weeks at Houston and versus Navy. The Grenada, Miss. native was named to the Watch List for the 2004 Ray Guy Award.
For the first time in recent history, Tulane's coaching staff declined to single out individual players on offense and defense as its players of the week after the Wave's dominating performance versus a quality Navy team. Instead, Head Coach Chris Scelfo said that the weekly awards would go to the entire Green Wave offensive and defensive units, from familiar names Lester Ricard, Roydell Williams, Antonio Mason and Anthony Cannon to the redshirts, walk-ons and other scout teamers who simulated Navy's triple option offense and defense in practice throughout the week.
A sure sign of Tulane's ability to limit the effectiveness of the Navy rushing attack was the names at the top of the tackle charts. Four of the Wave's top tacklers in the game were linebackers, led by junior Antonio Mason, who had a career high 14 tackles. His 14 stops nearly matched his career total of last year, when he totalled 20 tackles. Mason also had 1.5 sacks in the game. He leads Tulane on the year with seven tackles for loss.
Following Mason on the tackle chart for the Navy game were his fellow starting 'backers -- Anthony Cannon and Wesley Heath -- who made nine stops each. Although strong safety Joey Dawson was next with eight tackles and a key fumble recovery, linebacker Kelvin Johnson followed with seven stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and his first career interception, and freshman defensive lineman Antonio Harris, continuing to impress, contributed six tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
Tulane's young defensive linemen - TU has no juniors or seniors on the 2004 line - continue to grow up, led by true freshmen Avery Williams and Antonio Harris, who have started every game at defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively. Harris, a Shreveport, La. product, leads all Tulane defensive linemen with 30 tackles while adding six tackles for loss and a pair of quarterback sacks. He was named the Defensive Player of the Game after making a season-high eight tackles with a tackle for loss at Houston. Houston native Williams has made 23 tackles and his 3.5 sacks rank second on the team.
Linebacker Anthony Cannon is seeking to become the first Green Wave defender since Mike Staid (1991-94) to compile 100-plus tackles in three straight seasons. He led Tulane with 114 tackles as a freshman in 2002 and added 102 stops a year ago. Through eight games this year, Cannon's 79 tackles lead Tulane as do his four sacks and three caused fumbles. The junior picked off his first career pass at Memphis and showed off his speed at East Carolina by running down ECU punt returner Travis Williams from behind, preventing a Pirate touchdown. He tied his career high with 16 tackles in the Southern Miss game.
Tulane's young defense -- the Green Wave starts just two seniors on that side of the ball -- is leading Conference USA with 23 quarterback sacks so far this season. In 2003, Tulane collected only 15 sacks all year. The Green Wave almost matched that number versus Florida A&M with 11 sacks, the highest single game total since at least 1989. Anthony Cannon's four sacks are more than Tulane's team leader of a year ago, while freshman DT Avery Williams has contributed 3.5 sacks. Twelve players have been in on sacks for Tulane this year.
After averaging just 76.5 yards rushing in its last four games, the Green Wave running game was rejuvenated versus Navy with 215 net yards on 43 carries. Running backs Jovon "Shaq" Jackson, Matt Forté and Ray Boudreaux accounted for 205 yards on 36 carries and a pair of TDs. Jackson led the way with 95 yards on 15 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown scamper, as the junior had his best rushing day since the Southern Miss game.
Forté, a true freshman from Slidell, went one better, putting together the best day of his career with 17 carries for 82 yards on the ground. Matt added a career-high 27 receiving yards on three catches, capped by a beautiful 18-yard touchdown run on a screen pass.
Tulane's most famous "Bush" in this presidential election year is wide receiver Chris, who is gaining acclaim in a whole new way this month. The senior is featured in the November 2004 issue 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 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. Versus Navy, the senior scored his fifth touchdown of the year on a 38-yard pass on his way to 71 yards on three catches. He ranks second on the team with 22 catches for 420 yards while his 19.1 yards per catch leads the team.
QB Lester Ricard posted some eye-popping statistics in the UAB game, but his second half numbers were even more impressive. The Amite, La. native completed 18-of-21 passes (85.7%) in the second half for 199 yards and three scores. 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 TU's game-winning drive, he calmly completed seven-of-eight passes for 67 yards, including six straight completions to end the game.
Defensive back Israel "Izzy" Route continues to excel on special teams for the Green Wave while also making an impact at cornerback. The sophomore has caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles -- all on special teams plays. He made his second fumble recovery versus UAB on a muffed punt, giving Tulane field position at the UAB 24. 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. In addition, Route has started Tulane's last two games at cornerback; with two pass break-ups versus both UAB and Navy, he is tied for the team lead in that category with five.
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). Smith's punt return average now stands at 13.6 yards, which ranks third in the league and 20th nationally. His 231 punt return yards this year are already the ninth-most in school history and well more than Tulane collected all of last year. As a team, Tulane ranks 28th in the nation in punt returns after finishing the 2003 season 96th.
Ricard joined Patrick Ramsey as the only Tulane QBs 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 all-time. His 300-yard day versus Navy made him just the seventh Tulane QB to post two or more 300-yard passing games in his career.
With 19 touchdown passes this season, Lester Ricard already ranks ninth all-time at Tulane in CAREER touchdown passes. Of course, it is a far cry from the 72, 70 and 60 career touchdowns thrown by Patrick Ramsey, Shaun King and J.P. Losman, respectively. In fact, although the 19 TD passes rank ninth on the career list, the total is tied for 10th on the Tulane single season chart.
The Green Wave has converted 13-of-20 red zone scoring opportunities this season, resulting in 13 touchdowns, but the real story is outside the "zone". The Green Wave has scored 15 touchdowns on plays of 20 yards or longer, including at least one in every game it has scored a touchdown this year.
Quarterback Lester Ricard has thrown 12 touchdown passes of longer than 20 yards, including the 87-yard pass to Roydell Williams versus Navy and a 59-yarder to Chris Bush versus Mississippi State. His six TD passes in the UAB game included tosses of 29, 22, 34 and 24 yards and he had long plays of 38 and 28 yards in the Navy game in addition to the 87-yard play. Add Fred Smith's 75-yard punt return, Ray Boudreaux's 25-yard TD run, a 22-yard jaunt by Jovon Jackson and a pair of long field goals by Nick Beucher, and the Wave has 17 scoring plays of longer than 20 yards.
A year ago, Tulane attempted just seven field goals, making three, and that trend continued early this season as the Green Wave was 0-for-1 on threes in the first four games of the year. However, in the Memphis, UAB and Houston games, Tulane's Nick Beucher kicked field goals of 40 yards or longer to match the 2003 season total for threes. His makes included a 46-yard FG versus Memphis, a 53-yard effort to tie for the longest in C-USA history (and second-longest at Tulane) in the UAB game, and a 43-yarder at Houston. Tulane had not made field goals in three straight games since the last three contests of the 2002 season (Army, Southern Miss, Hawai'i).
No Tulane kicker had made field goals of 40 yards or longer in three straight games since 2001 when eventual Lou Groza Award winner Seth Marler made field goals of 53, 48 and 50 yards (among nine FGs made in those games) in consecutive games versus ECU, UCF and Southern.
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, and the most points scored under Chris Scelfo. It was the Wave's highest point total since 1998 when Tulane put 63 points on the scoreboard versus Louisiana Tech in the regular season finale. 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 by two teams, surpassing the 110 points totalled in a 63-47 Wave loss at Virginia in 1968.
Tulane snapped a three-game losing streak with a 59-55 win over UAB in a wild Homecoming affair at Tad Gormley Stadium. The game featured seven fourth-quarter touchdowns, along with a successful fake punt, a 53-yard field goal, and a 75-yard punt return TD by Tulane. 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.
Tulane got its first TD 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.
Nicknamed "Shaq" after shattering a basketball backboard as a youngster, Jovon Jackson leads Tulane in rushing with 615 yards on 123 carries and is averaging 5.0 yards per rush. Jackson, who had caught just 10 career passes for 31 yards entering the season, ranks third on the team with 18 catches for 129 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.
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 while Gerald Brobbey and deep snapper Lane Macaluso are special teams stalwarts. 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.
Tulane missed nearly a week of practice Sept. 13-18 when much of New Orleans, including the Tulane campus, evacuated due to Hurricane Ivan. With the University and dorms closed for the week and the Tulane-Louisville game postponed, many of the Green Wave players and coaches left town as well. The Green Wave reported back to New Orleans Sept. 19 for a Sunday practice to begin preparations for the Sept. 25 meeting with Southern Miss.
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.
Five former Green Wave players were on NFL opening day rosters, with two more Tulanians on injured reserve. The list includes two members of the 2003 team and Tulane's last three QBs (see above). Tulane all-time great Mewelde Moore has started the last four games at running back for the Vikings after being selected in the fourth round of the 2004 draft. Losman, a first round draft choice of the Bills, broke his leg during preseason while former TU kicker Seth Marler (1999-2002) is on injured reserve with the Jaguars, the same place that DB Alphonso Roundtree (1995-98) finds himself. The only other active former Greenie on a roster is New York Jets running back Jerald Sowell (1993-96).
The Tulane-Army game will be seen statewide on Cox Sports TV beginning at 11 p.m. Saturday night with a second replay Monday at 4 pm in New Orleans on Cox 10, and another showing Monday night at 7 p.m. on Cox Sports TV. Calling the game will be Bob DelGiorno, Jr. and Rich Mauti.