NEW ORLEANS - Visiting with Tulane players Tuesday, it was clear that while they were disappointed with their season opening loss to Rutgers. But the Green Wave had moved ahead while recovering from the defeat.
Though the players had forged ahead, their coach was recouperating from another type of setback.
Johnson was overcome by heat at the team's Tuesday morning practice. He was transported to Tulane Hospital as a precautionary measure. While he was released from the hospital later that evening and is expected to bounce back quickly, it is the Green Wave who must rebound in a big way against huge odds.
Conference-USA nemesis Tulsa welcomes Tulane for a breakfast edition at 11:05 a.m. at H.A. Chapman Stadium at Tulsa Saturday in the league opener for both teams.
A week removed from Hurricane Isaac and being displaced to Birmingham, Alabama, Tulane has a sense of normalcy but hopes to avoid the norm when it comes to taking on Tulsa.
Since Tulsa and Tulane joined Conference USA, the two teams have played seven times with the Hurricane blowing away Tulane every time. It has not been a pretty site for Green Wave fans.
Tulsa has outscored Tulane by an average of 43-12.7 points in their seven wins over the Green Wave. The closest Tulane has come in the seven one-sided affairs is 24 points, which occurred on three different occasions.
The scores are an eyesore for Tulane players, coaches and fans. Last year, it was 31-3 in the Superdome. In 2010, the Hurricane won 52-34 at Tulsa. Other scores during the streak were 56-7, 49-25, 38-3 and 38-14. Tulane did post a win over Tulsa in 1968, winning 25-15 at Tulane Stadium.
Rubbing further balm into the wound is the ominous presence of Louisiana talent on the Tulsa roster. While Destrehan's Demaris Johnson is no longer around to torment his hometown team, there are five others who are coming home again this Saturday, including three from the New Orleans area.
Former East St. John stars Alex Singleton and Kalen Henderson, along with star defensive back Dexter McCoil of Lutcher will enjoy home cooking, at least for one night.
A sophomore, Henderson has five career starts, all of which came a year ago. A senior, Singleton has played in 28 career games, rushing for 684 yards and 19 touchdowns.
McCoil is the most notable. A 2012 preseason C-USA all-conference pick by league coaches, McCoil has 235 career tackles and 13 interceptions, which is tied for the schools' all-time record. He had 10 tackles in a season opening 38-23 loss at Iowa State.
Junior wide receiver Jordan James of St. Thomas More (Lafayette) has 11 career starts and 34 career receptions. Former Calvary Baptist two-sport star Khiry Cooper transferred to Tulsa from Nebraska, where he played football and baseball and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 25th round of the 2012 amateur draft.
Since arriving at Tulane, Johnson has stressed keeping players at home, emphasizing the new "state of Tulane." Johnson has made strides, attracting good hometown talent to Tulane in his first year on the job with a nice head start on more Louisiana talent for his second recruiting class.
To be successful long-term, he will need to keep the likes of McCoil, Johnson and Cooper at home.
One south Louisiana product who is playing well for Tulane is junior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley of Baton Rouge and St. Michael the Archangel High School.
Warmsley was in on three tackles, including one for loss in the 24-12 loss to Rutgers last Saturday. He had 5.5 sacks as a sophomore and has improved annually. While disappointed with the loss, Warmsley feels the defeat can be productive heading into the Tulsa matchup.
"It's a learning experience," said Warmsley. "We have a lot to work on. We're just taking what we learned from Rutgers and what our mistakes were and just making sure we use that as fuel for Tulsa and get better."
Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin played respectably, connecting on 34-of-48 attempts for 254 yards and one touchdown but one costly interception which was returned for a score. It was not enough to produce a victory.
"I thought we played tough, the guys played really hard," said Griffin. "Obviously, there's some plays that we wanted back. There's some things that we wish we would have done better. Looking back, they are a very good team with a very good defense and a lot of returning guys. We weren't really able to capitalize on their mistakes because they didn't make any. It was more just making plays, making more plays than they did."
Obviously, Tulane did not. Junior receiver Ryan Grant was a bright spot with six catches for 110 yards while senior safety Devon Walker was in on nine tackles while senior defensive back Ryan Travis had an interception.
While it was a tough week for everyone around south Louisiana last week, including the Green Wave football team with their evacuation to Birmingham, Alabama, Warmsley refuses to blame Hurricane Isaac for the loss to Rutgers.
"Honestly, I really don't think it was a distraction," Warmsley said. "Honestly, it was kind of nice to get away. It's said with everything that happened. When we came back, we were just ready to play. We were prepared."
While Isaac was not a problem for Tulane, the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa present problems on an annual basis for the Wave. Warmsley is acutely aware of the history.
"I think that all of us are aware of it and right now, we're just focused on beating Tulsa," Warmsley said. "I don't think we're really worried about the past. It's most definitely a new day and time, a new age at Tulane, a new coaching staff. Everything is more exciting, more energetic. We're raring to go. We can't way to play Tulsa."
Griffin has been on the receiving end of the last three beat downs by Tulsa but feels the new coaching staff and approach at Tulane give the Green Wave a new lease on life against the Golden Hurricane.
"One of the benefits is that we have a blank slate," said Griffin. "When we look at them defensively, it's not as if we are intimidated, there's no issue with that. We're looking at them just like we look at any other team but this is a big week for us, this is a conference game. It's a big game for us."
A very respectable announced crowd of 26,059 attended the season opener. Tulane must earn the respect of opponents and prospective fans while continuing to make inroads on the roads of Louisiana to achieve respectability on the field. They can make a real step toward the mark by playing Tulsa tougher than at any time in recent memory.
Tulane will likely play without top running back Orleans Darkwa, who is still bothered by a high ankle sprain.
The enthusiastic Johnson is likely to bounce back, ready to go. Will his team do the same as a 25-point underdog?
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