Kickoff slated for noon with the game televised on Comcast/Charter Sports
NEW ORLEANS – It will be a weekend of returns for the Tulane University football team this weekend as the squad not only returns to Conference USA play but welcomes the healthy return senior quarterback Ryan Griffin when the Green Wave play host to league foe SMU on Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff is slated for noon and the contest will be televised on Comcast/Charter Sports.
After missing the last three games with a shoulder injury sustained at Tulsa on Sept. 8, Griffin will be back under center and first-year head coach Curtis Johnson said that the team has a new bounce in the step with the veteran signal caller taking snaps.
“There’s a difference between a soldier and a warrior: soldiers march, warriors fight,” Johnson said. “Griff’s been in there. He’s a fighter and he’s been through it all. He’s been hit, got up and thrown touchdowns. He’s an experienced guy. He’s not going in there for the first time. He has the poise, the experience and the knowledge of the game. He’s had 30 or so starts, so he’s very experienced.
“Having a younger team with guys who haven’t play, it was like youth looking to the youth. (D.J.) Ponder is an older kid, but he just hasn’t played very much. It was just all youth looking back and forth. Now we’ve got a little bit of direction and a little bit of leadership.”
In addition to the television coverage, the Tulane/SMU game will also be broadcast on the flagship station of Green Wave athletics, WIST AM 690, and live video streaming will be available via the web at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. Live stats will also be on-line courtesy of GameTracker, and fans will once again have a chance to insert their opinion and ask questions interactively through “Tulane Live.”
The Green Wave enter the weekend 0-5 on the season, 0-1 in C-USA play, and looking to bounce back from a 41-13 loss last Saturday at UL-Layette. As a team, Tulane is averaging 195.0 yards of total offense per game (14.6 rushing, 180.4 passing) while giving up an average of 481.4 (267.0 rushing, 214.4 passing).
In two starts this season, Griffin has completed 41-of-61 passes (.672) for 314 yards, one touchdown and an interception. In his absence, freshman Devin Powell started the Ole Miss game on Sept. 22 while fifth-year senior D.J. Ponder has started the last two contests.
“If you look at the Saints, Drew Brees will look over, get the play and he knows the play and knows who’s in the game,” Johnson said. “Ponder didn’t know the play sometimes so he had to fiddle through the wristband. Now they’re trying to figure out who’s in the game and who’s doing what…Nothing against (Ponder and Powell), but now we’ve got a problem solver (on the field). (Griffin) can get guys in and out of the game. He knows the plays. He knows the offense. He knows the language.”
Junior wide receiver Ryan Grant is one of four Tulane players with 10-plus receptions in the five games of the season, and leads the squad with 24 catches for 331 yards (13.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. Sophomore Justyn Shackleford is second on the team with 17 grabs for 234 yards (13.8 avg.) and a score while the running back tandem of sophomore Rob Kelley and junior Derrick Strozier – who has recently been moved to defense – had 14 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown and 11 receptions for 60 yards, respectively. Kelley paces the Green Wave ground game with 143 yards on 44 carries (3.2 avg.).
Defensively, the Green Wave have seven sacks among 26 tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups and eight forced turnovers with four fumble recoveries and a quartet of interceptions.
Junior linebacker Zach Davis leads the way with 38 tackles (26 solo, 12 assists) and a pair of sacks among 3.0 tackles for loss while sharing the team lead in interceptions with senior cornerback Ryan Travis, sophomore safety Sam Scofield and freshman corner Lorenzo Doss with one interception. Rookie free safety Darion Monroe is second on the team with 30 stops (23 solo, 7 assists) and Travis headlines the secondary with four pass break-ups. Senior defensive end Austen Jacks paces the squad with 5.5 tackles for loss and sophomore defensive tackle has two of the team’s six forced fumbles.
SMU, meanwhile, comes to New Orleans2-3 on the year and 1-0 in C-USA action after blanking UTEP last Saturday at the Sun Bowl. As a team, the Mustangs are averaging 347.2 yards of total offense per game (98.2 rushing, 249.0 passing) while giving up an average of 422.2 (136.2 rushing, 286.0 passing).
Garrett Gilbert, a transfer from the University of Texas who played in the Longhorns’ BCS National Championship Game back in 209, leads the SMU offense with 1,118 yards and five touchdowns on 113-of-228 passing (.496). Preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Zach Line paces the Mustangs’ ground game with 427 yards and three scores on 100 carries (4.3 avg.) while Luke Seeker is next with 59 yards on 10 totes.
Jeremy Johnson is one of five Mustangs’ wideouts to haul in at least 16 passes and tally at least 110 yards through the air and leads the team with 26 receptions for 265 yards while ranking tied for second on the squad with a touchdown grab. Darius Johnson is second on the team with 24 catches for 235 yards while Der’rikk Thompson had a team-high two scoring receptions.
On defense, SMU has seven sacks among 26 tackles for loss, broke up 25 passes and forced 15 turnovers with 10 interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
Randall Joyner leads the Mustangs with 41 tackles (16 solo, 25 assists), followed by Jay Scott with 36 (23 solo,13 assists), while Taylor Reed and Qyen Griffin are next with 32 each (17 solo, 15 assists). Reed headlines the SMU unit with 5.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks, Joyner has a team-best three interceptions, and Kenneth Acker leads the way with four pass break-ups.
“I think this running back they’ve got is pretty good,” Johnson said of SMU. “I think they’re going to try and pound us. They start with the run and then they try and throw it. (Mustangs’ head coach) June Jones is creative enough to help (Gilbert). He’ll get him on the perimeter, and he’ll move around a little bit. Our ends have to be very focused on keeping him contained. I think we’ll do well with that.”
Saturday’s game marks the 21st time the two teams have met on the gridiron and Tulane holds a 12-8 lead in the all-time series. SMU, however, has won the last three head-to-head meetings with the Green Wave, including a 45-24 decision last year in Dallas. The last time Tulane defeated SMU was back on Sept. 25, 2008, when the Wave came away with a 34-27 decision in the Superdome.
Tickets to Saturday’s Tulane/SMU contest as well as future Green Wave events are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
The ticket office at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, located at Gate A Ground facing Poydras Street, will open on Saturday at 10 a.m. and the gates will be opened to the public at 11 a.m.
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