The Green Wave closes out its 2004 road schedule today with a trip to Fort Worth to play TCU. Tulane is coming off back-to-back wins over Navy and Army Nov. 6 and 13, respectively, before enjoying its third open date of the season last week.
Tulane will complete its 2004 regular season schedule next Saturday, Dec. 4 in the Louisiana Superdome versus Louisville in a game originally scheduled for Sept. 18 and postponed due to Hurricane Ivan. When New Orleans was evacuated with the hurricane approaching in September, officials of both schools and the conference agreed to the postponement which gave Tulane three open dates this season. Kickoff for the contest is at 1:30 p.m. in the Louisiana Superdome.
Prior to the third open date, Tulane had defeated Army 45-31 in the Superdome to give the Wave its first winning streak of the season. In that game, Green Wave freshman Matt Forté rushed for 216 yards on 34 carries and tied a school record with four TDs as Tulane took a 31-7 lead in the second half and held on for the win despite losing starting quarterback Lester Ricard to injury. The Green Wave defense held Army leading rusher Carlton Jones to just 79 yards behind Anthony Cannon's 11 tackles.
Since the 2000 season, Tulane is 10-6 in games played in November and December, including a 2-0 mark so far this year. Including this season, 10 of Tulane's 26 victories during that time -- nearly 40 percent -- have come in November and December. The 2000 team went 3-0 in the final month of the season to finish with a 6-5 record, something the 2004 Tulane team would like to match.
For the second straight season, Tulane lost a key player to injury in the ninth game of the season. A year ago it was Mewelde Moore who broke his hand in the game at Navy, prematurely ending his senior season. Two weeks ago it was sophomore quarterback Lester Ricard who was lost for the season with a broken right (throwing) wrist, again in the ninth game of the season.
Tulane meets TCU for the 12th time Saturday in Fort Worth and looks for its fourth win over the Horned Frogs, as well as its second win at Amon Carter Stadium. The Wave and Frogs have met at least twice in each of the last four decades as the series began in 1978-79, continued in 1985-86, picked up again 1993 through 1996 and has now seen the teams meet in each of the last three years. TCU has won the last two meetings, including a hard-fought 17-10 triumph in Fort Worth in 2002. Tulane had claimed the two games prior to that, in 1996 and 2001, halting a five-game TCU winning streak that stretched from 1985-1995.
Tulane and TCU opened the 2003 season on Labor Day night in the Superdome with TCU prevailing 38-35 despite a fourth quarter Green Wave comeback. TCU had extended it's lead to 31-7 lead early in the fourth quarter on Lonta Hobbs' third touchdown run of the day before Tulane began its comeback behind quarterback J.P. Losman.
Losman hit Roydell Williams with a two-yard TD toss and Mewelde Moore scored on Tulane's next possession to narrow the gap to 31-21. When Bruce Youmans scooped up a fumble and scored on a 35-yard return, the Green Wave pulled within three with 7:39 left. But TCU used five-and-a-half minutes on the clock on a 61-yard TD drive and although Tulane added a touchdown with 24 seconds on the clock, TCU recovered an onside kick to seal the win.
True freshman running back Matt Forté burst into the spotlight versus Army. In his first starting assignment, the Slidell native, and son of former Green Wave player Gene Forté, stepped in for an injured (hamstring) Jovon Jackson and gained 216 rushing yards on 34 carries while catching three passes for 67 yards. He tied a school record with four touchdowns (3 rush, 1 receiving). His rushing total was the fourth-highest in school history while his 34 carries were the second-most ever. His 283 all-purpose yards in the game rank third all-time at Tulane. Forté set new Tulane freshmen records for single game rushes, rushing yards, TDs and all-purpose yards while nearly doubling his yardage total from the first eight games of the year.
With Lester Ricard sidelined for the final two regular season games, redshirt freshman Richard Irvin steps into the spotlight as the Green Wave's new starting quarterback. Irvin played the final half of the Army game, completing a season-high 10-of-14 passes for 123 yards and one interception. Irvin has seen action in seven games this season as Ricard's back-up and is 25-of-44 (56.8%) for 300 yards with two interceptions and a TD.
Receiver Roydell Williams tied the Conference USA record for career touchdown catches with his 63-yard catch and run that put Tulane on the board in the first quarter versus Army. Williams' 33rd career TD catch tied him with Ibn Green of Louisville (1996-99) for the C-USA all-time mark. Williams broke the Wave's school record the week before with a pair of touchdown catches, of 87 and 28 yards, versus Navy. During his five-year career, Williams has caught touchdown passes from four different Tulane quarterbacks -- Patrick Ramsey (11), J.P. Losman (11), Lester Ricard (10) and Derrick Joseph (1). His 10 TD catches this year are tied for sixth on the Tulane single season chart.
After a slow start to the 2004 season (one catch for 32 yards in Tulane's first three games), receiver Roydell Williams has proven why he is one of the school's all-time best. In the Wave's last six games, Williams has caught 41 passes for 698 yards and 10 touchdowns, with TDs in five of those contests. His average of 116.3 yards per game would rank third nationally and second in the league, while his 6.83 catches per game would lead C-USA. Williams has totalled over 100 receiving yards in four of his last six games.
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. He collected a season-high 148 yards on six catches with a pair of scores versus Navy, including a career-long 87-yard TD play.
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 as he now has 205 grabs for 3,111 yards in 46 career games. Those numbers rank third on the Tulane all-time charts for catches and second in receiving yards. He trails only Green Wave All-American Marc Zeno in yards and is behind both Zeno (236) and JaJuan Dawson (234) in career catches. His numbers rank fifth and third all-time in Conference USA for catches and receiving yards, respectively, although he needs just five yards to pass Southern Miss' Sherrod Gideon on the yardage list.
For the second straight week, the Green Wave offense was firing on all cylinders as Tulane piled up 593 yards of total offense versus Army to record the fourth-highest total in school history, and the most yards by a Chris Scelfo-coached Green Wave team. It was the highest total for Tulane since Nov. 28, 1998 when the Wave had 633 yards in a win over Louisiana Tech. With 87 points in its last two games, Tulane put together back-to-back 40-point games for the first time since the 2000 season when the Wave had 41 points versus Houston (Nov. 4) followed by a 50-point day against Navy (Nov. 11).
While Chris Beckman's 43.3-yard punting average leads Conference USA and ranks 16th nationally, even more amazing is the fact that NOT ONE of his 41 punts have gone into the end zone for a touchback this season. Despite punting just four times in Tulane's last two games, Beckman continues to make the most of his opportunities, landing a pair of 50-yard punts and a pair of punts inside the 20 in the last two games. On the season, Beckman has placed 16 punts inside the 20-yard line, with seven of those pinning opponents inside the 10. The sophomore has 12 punts of 50-plus yards, including season-long 55-yard punts at Houston and versus Navy. The Grenada, Miss. native was named to the Watch List for the 2004 Ray Guy Award.
Linebacker Anthony Cannon needs just 10 more tackles this season to become the first Green Wave defender since Mike Staid (1991-94) to compile 100-plus tackles in three straight seasons. The junior led Tulane with 114 tackles as a freshman in 2002 and added 102 stops a year ago. Through nine games this year, Cannon's 90 tackles lead Tulane. He tied his career high with 16 tackles in the Southern Miss game and has compiled 10 or more tackles in five games this season (MSU, USM, Memphis, Houston, Army), leading Tulane in stops in each of those games.
With four quarterback sacks, four caused fumbles, seven tackles for loss, an interception and two pass break-ups, Anthony Cannon has done much more than make tackles in 2004. The linebacker 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. His four caused fumbles lead Conference USA and are tied for fourth-most in the nation, while his four sacks are tops on the Tulane defense and his single season best. He ranks second on the team in tackles for loss. The Georgia native has at least one "big play" in seven of Tulane's nine games this year
Without all-time leading rusher Mewelde Moore, the Green Wave running game has barely missed a beat, thanks, in part to the work of a veteran offensive line. The combination of junior Jovon Jackson and freshman Matt Forté has now combined to rush for 1,072 yards on 218 carries on the season, for 4.9 yards per carry. With Forté's 200-yard rushing day versus Navy, Tulane running backs have three 100-plus yard days this year. Tulane accumulated a season-high 243 rushing yards in the win over Army after compiling 215 yards the game before. The Green Wave had just one 200-plus yard rushing game last season. For good measure, Green Wave running backs have caught 40 passes for 302 yards and two TDs this season.
The Green Wave is 13-of-20 in the red zone this season with 13 touchdowns, but the real story is outside the "zone". The Green Wave has scored 18 touchdowns on plays of 20 yards or longer, including at least one in every game it has scored a touchdown this year. Lester Ricard threw 14 touchdown passes of longer than 20 yards, including 87 and 63-yard passes to Roydell Williams, a 59-yard strike to Chris Bush versus Mississippi State and Matt Forté's 47-yard catch and run in the Navy game. Ricard's 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 versus Navy in addition to the 87-yard play. Add Fred Smith's 75-yard punt return, TD runs of 48, 25 and 22 yards by Forté, Ray Boudreaux and Jovon Jackson, respectively, and a pair of long field goals by Nick Beucher, and the Wave has 20 scoring plays of longer than 20 yards.
Tulane's most famous "Bush" in this presidential election year is wide receiver Chris, who has gained acclaim on and off the field this season. On the field, the senior is Tulane's second-leading receiver who notched his first 100-yard game of the season, and third of his career, versus Army with eight grabs for 104 yards. With 30 catches for 524 yards and five TDs, he has provided the perfect complement to his former high school teammate, Roydell Williams. Bush has made several critical catches, including the game-winning touchdown versus UAB with 27 seconds on the clock and a TD grab that put the Wave ahead late in the ECU game. Off the field, Bush, whose father, Cornell, is serving in the U.S. military in Iraq, 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.
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 31 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 26 tackles and his 3.5 sacks rank second on the team.
Sophomore Fred Smith continues to excel for Tulane in the return game. His 75-yard punt return touchdown versus UAB was the first of his career, and the first for the Wave since the 2002 Hawaii Bowl (by Lynaris Elpheage). Smith's punt return average now stands at 12.2 yards, which ranks third in the league and 29th nationally. His 242 punt return yards this year are already the ninth-most in school history. As a team, Tulane ranks 38th in the nation in punt returns after finishing the 2003 season 96th. Meanwhile, Smith already ranks among Tulane's all-time best in kickoff returns with 54 returns for 1,179 yards in less than two seasons. He is already sixth in kickoff returns and fifth in career KOR yards. With returns of 54 and 49 yards this season, he is averaging 21.8 yards per return.
Tulane, TCU To Battle In Fort Worth Saturday
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