Tulane Travels to Fort Worth with New Starting QB

After taking last week off for an open date, Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo met with the media Tuesday morning in the Wilson Center to preview the upcoming game with TCU as the 4-5 Green Wave travel to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs, 5-5 on the year.

After taking last week off for an open date, Tulane Head Coach Chris Scelfo met with the media Tuesday morning in the Wilson Center to preview the upcoming game with TCU as the 4-5 Green Wave travel to Fort Worth to take on the Horned Frogs, 5-5 on the year.

The game marks the regular season finale for TCU while Tulane will take on Louisville Dec. 4 in the Superdome in its final game of the season. Scelfo was asked about his situation at running back, starting a new quarterback in freshman Richard Irvin, and the progress of his defense, in addition to several other topics. Here is the transcript of that session:

Chris Scelfo Opening Statement
"Coming off an open weekend it is yet to be decided whether that was good timing or not from the standpoint we had a lot of momentum [going into the open week]. We had won three out of four games and been playing quite well. From that standpoint it [the open week] takes away a little bit from you. But the flip side of that is it gives you a few more days with a new quarterback, from adjusting to the cadence to knowing the system. It gives us a chance to operate there with Richard [Irvin]. As far as the injuries that we had, and the open date giving them time to heal, most of our injuries have been season-ending, so we really hadn't progressed much. The one guy out was [RB] Jovon Jackson and we expect him to be ready to go by Saturday so the open date was good for him.

"TCU has become a very competitive rivalry game for us. The last three years have been very close, hard-fought games that have usually come down to three or four plays that decided the outcome with them. Last year, opening up the season with them was a very exciting game for both sides and they made the one or two plays that made the difference in the game.

"It's going to be imperative for us to go up there with the sense of urgency of how important every play is -- on special teams, on the defense and offensively. They're a football team that's gotten healthy, and they're on the right track and we're a football team that's been consistently improving all year and we've got to continue to do that on Saturday."

Who will start at running back and could you talk about Matt Forté, he's a player you've talked about since August.
"If Jovon [Jackson] is healthy, Jovon will start. If not, Matt will start. I think Matt [Forté] has a tremendous future here. He really does. He's going to get bigger, stronger and faster. He obviously had a great game last week [versus Army] but to judge a back and say where he is, consistency's got to be the key. But he has improved. You know TCU's defense is really set up to stop the run and it will be a tremendous challenge for our backs and our offensive line Saturday."

Do you wish you had Lester for Saturday, given that TCU is last in the conference in passing defense?
"It's another opportunity for someone else. Richard has got to capitalize on the opportunity. It's unfortunate Richard missed 4-5 weeks this year because of a slight shoulder separation. As well as Lester was playing, it would have been interesting to see how he reacted [versus TCU]. We're counting on Richard, and I think our team has confidence in Richard, and he's got to be able to operate."

How far has Richard come from August to today and what is the key for him in his first start Saturday?
"The big thing is, Richard's got to do a better job of taking care of the football. He operates efficiently when he's had some opportunity this year. The turnovers at that position have been critical to us and it's going to be imperative that he operates within himself and within our system – not to get frustrated and lose his poise. Our players have confidence in him, our coaches have confidence in him and he's played all year. He's played in every game but three so he's had playing experience. He is a freshman, no misunderstanding about that. He‘s missed a month, but he did practice last week and he feels very healthy going into today's practice.

"The one thing that bothers me about our quarterback position all year is being able to play within the system and taking care of the football. We've got to do a good job of that Saturday."

Describe Richard Irvin as a quarterback.
"Young freshman that is very competitive and tough. Wants to do right and will do right and tries to do everything the coaches ask him to do."

How much does the emphasis on playing for a bowl game or bowl eligibility impact the teams or is that overblown by the media?
"I think it's overblown from this standpoint and this standpoint only. You only have so many opportunities to play this game. You work year round to play them. What's on the line is pride and effort and all the hard work and effort you put into it for eight months to have an opportunity to play on Saturday. You hope you have that every week, but you know it's hard to do that consistently every week. We've seen that across the country. Our players have a lot of pride and I know TCU has a lot of pride. We've had some very competitive games with them. There's a lot more on the line than being bowl eligible. It's how much character you have, how much pride you have and how much competitiveness that you have inside of you."

What did you think of South Carolina and Clemson not going to a bowl because of the fight in their game?
"It's unfortunate that incident happened. We talk to our team all the time. You've got to keep your composure, keep your poise. Our players will tell you, that's something I talk about every day with them. On the practice field, in the classroom, it doesn't matter where you are. It's unfortunate something like that would happen. There's no place for it in college athletics."

Can you talk about the emergence of some of your younger players and what that says about the future of the program?
"Coming into this year, we knew what our deficiencies were and I think everyone in this room has seen our team progress and has seen our team make strides. They've not always shown up on the right side of the scoreboard, but our guys have grown together and we're starting four seniors on Saturday. There's great hope for what this team can accomplish. The future is Saturday for us, but when you look at our team and roster and see the guys, where they are now and where they can be if they dedicate themselves to it, I think they can see that there's a lot going in the right direction for us. Someone showed me an article in Sporting News magazine where we are one of the hottest teams projected for 2005. There's a lot to be said about the character of your football team and I think this team has a lot of character, and they're going to show up Saturday too."

Can you talk about your back-up quarterback situation?
"Probably Izzy [Route] (joking as Route is at the back of the room). We might direct snap it. We got ‘Chise' -- Chris Dawson. He's a walk-on out of Maryland. A very heady player."

With the way the season started in August with a three-battle at quarterback, did you think you'd be here now with the walk-on QB one play away basically?
"I don't think anybody envisions that. From start to finish you try to build a program and keep your components in place and injuries do happen, that's part of the game. But to foresee something like that no, but what it does mean is our offensive line has got to raise their level of play, our receivers have got to raise their level of play, and our defense has got to raise their level of play.

"This group right here has character. We're not going to talk about injuries or what we don't have, we're going to talk about what we have, and we've got a football team that prides itself on trying to do things right. They're going to play hard and try to get a little bit better every day in practice and on Saturday play as hard as you can and if that's good enough to win, we're going to take it and if it's not, we‘re not going to hang our heads, we're going to go back to work and try to do better.

How is [QB] Lester [Ricard] and when do you think he'll be healed?
"If you ask him, he's healed. But he's not. I think it's a 6-8 week deal. Right now they don't foresee the surgery, so that's a good sign. It was a clean break in his wrist and hopefully by the end of January, early February. Would he like to play Saturday? Yes. But no, he knows he can't."

Talk about possibly exploiting TCU's pass defense.
"In the past we've done a good job of that. It's not so much exploiting. We have a pretty good system here. This is my sixth year and going into this game, our average per play is the highest it's ever been. What that means is, we've been operating pretty efficiently on offense with less snaps. That's going to be the key Saturday. It's not exploiting, it's how well we execute on offense as opposed to how well they execute on defense."

But if there's an area that you can exploit is it their pass defense?
"That's something they've had problems with this year, but they've also played some teams that can throw the ball. I think we can execute our offensive package in the passing game as well as anybody in the country, too. I think our package is suited for success and its been proven over time. It's how well we protect, how well we throw, how well we read, how well we get open."

How are you playing defensively right now?
"We're in pretty good shape, health-wise. We've gotten more confidence week in and week out. The young guys up front have grown up. They're not where they're going to be, but they have consistently improved. Our secondary, the thing they've got to do a better job of is playing the ball when it's in the air. We've done the worst job of that since I've been here here. Competing for the ball when it's in the air, we've got to improve on that. The key is how well our linebackers have progressed this year and we've stayed healthy there."

When you talk about the cornerbacks, has the switching of positions back there affected their play?
"I don't know because it's happened to each one of them. When the ball's in the air, we haven't done a good job of playing it. Whether it's lack of competing for the ball, not going up and knocking the ball away, not picking it. We've been in pretty good position most of the time, but we haven't come down with the ball. Whether it's a safety or a corner doesn't really matter to me. We've had some changes, but I'd like to see our guys get their hands on the ball."

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