Tulane's football team posted its best regular-season record since 1980, completing the 1997 campaign with a 7-4 mark. The Green Wave finished second in Conference USA with a 5-1 record, its best conference record and finish since 1949.
Tulane had six players named first-team All-Conference USA and its first All-American (K Brad Palazzo) since 1987; a full list appears at right. Other award candidates:
- Palazzo was one of 16 finalists for the Mosi Tatupu Award (special teams) and one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award (kicker).
- QB Shaun King was one of 14 nominees for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.
- Head coach Tommy Bowden was one of 10 semifinalists for Football News' Coach of the Year award.
- K Brad Palazzo led the nation in field goals per game (2.09) and scoring by kickers (9.9 points/game). Palazzo ranked 12th overall in scoring.
- P Brad Hill ranked fourth nationally in punting average (46.2).
- QB Shaun King ranked 12th in the nation in total offense (279.8).
- WR/KR P.J. Franklin was ranked in three categories - receptions per game, kickoff returns and all-purpose yards.
Tommy Bowden was named Tulane's 38th head football coach on Dec. 11, 1996, and completed his first season as a college head coach at 7-4. Bowden's seven victories match the most by a rookie head coach in Tulane history. Vince Gibson also won seven games in 1980.
- The Green Wave offense set a school record with 375 points and reached 300 points for only the fourth time in school history. Defensively, Tulane allowed 20.5 points per game, the fewest it has allowed since 1981.
- Tulane posted two shutouts in a season for the first time since the 1973 squad recorded three (VMI, North Carolina, LSU).
- The Green Wave posted a pair of 50-point games in one season for the first time since 1930 and scored at least 40 points on four occasions for the first time since 1928.
- Besides setting a Conference USA record, the 64 points against Louisville was the most by a Tulane team since 1950 (64-0 over Louisiana College).
- Tulane had 569 yards total offense against Louisville, its most since World War II and its second straight game of at least 550 yards.
- Against Army and Louisville, Tulane gained 200 yards both rushing and passing in consecutive games for only the second time in school history. Tulane also pulled the 200-200 trick against Memphis.
Coach Tommy Bowden promised a wide-open attack when he was hired, and in 1997, he was a man of his word. The Green Wave threw the ball at a near-record pace with 2,598 yards and a school-record 25 touchdowns. More on Tulane's "passing fancy:"
- The Wave passed for more than 250 yards in its first six games - before this year, it had never been done in more than two consecutive games. The consecutive 300-yard passing games against Syracuse and Army also were a first.
- QB Shaun King passed for a career-high four touchdowns against Cincinnati and East Carolina. The school record is five, done last by Deron Smith against Memphis in 1989.
- King passed for 2,567 yards, and his average of 233.4 set a single-season record.
- King's 329-yard passing day against Syracuse was the second 300-yard day of his career. He threw for 372 yards, third-best in Tulane history, vs. Rutgers in 1995.
- In his first career start, WR JaJuan Dawson caught three touchdown passes against Cincinnati - the first Tulane player to score three TDs in a game since Wil Ursin did it in against East Carolina and Navy in 1991. Dawson repeated the feat against Army and had 10 receiving TDs before his regular season came to an end at USL because of a broken right ankle.
- Dawson had 839 yards receiving in eight games, twice as much as any Tulane receiver had all of last year. With 52 catches this year, he also nearly tripled his season total of a year ago (18).
- WR P.J. Franklin had 58 catches (No. 5 in Tulane history) for 703 yards this season, more than doubling his 1996 totals of 20 receptions and 311 yards. . . . Dawson and Franklin are the first receiving tandem in Tulane history to each have 50 receptions in the same season . . . Dawson and Franklin had a combined three career touchdown receptions coming into the season. They accounted for 18 (Dawson 10, Franklin 8) . . . Dawson (130) and Franklin (103) each topped the century mark in receiving yards against Army, the first time two Tulane receivers have had 100 yards in receptions since the 1988 season opener against Chattanooga (Jerome McIntosh 124, Michael Pierce 100).
In going from 2-9 in 1996 to 7-4 in 1997, Tulane posted a five-game improvement, the second-biggest jump in the win column of any Division I-A team in the regular season (only Western Michigan, at six games, improved more). Additionally, the five-game jump is the third-best in Division I-A in the last four seasons.
Checking the Lists
- King ranks third in career passing yards and attempts and fourth in completions and TDs. Against Ole Miss, he became the third player in Tulane history to go over 5,000 career passing yards, joining Terrence Jones and Roch Hontas.
- King has 5,704 career yards of total offense to rank second in Tulane history.
- Dawson's 10 touchdown receptions puts him in a second-place tie on Tulane's single-season list. The school record is 13 by Marc Zeno in 1987.
- The 79-yard pass from King to Dawson against Syracuse was the fourth-longest in Tulane history, the longest since 1993 and one yard longer than the 78-yard connection made by King and Dawson for a touchdown against Rice. Those were two of five connections of 50 yards or more from King to Dawson in 1997.
Getting His Kicks
All-America K Brad Palazzo ended 1997 as the national leader in field goals per game and points scored by kicking.
- Palazzo set school and Conference USA records for field goals and points scored by kicking. He ended the season with 23 field goals in 28 attempts and 109 points.
- Against Houston, Palazzo became the first Tulane player since 1928 to score 100 points in a season.
- After missing his first two attempts of the season (48 and 53 vs. Cincinnati), Palazzo made 23 of his last 26 tries.
- Palazzo set a Tulane record for points scored by a kicker in a game (22) and tied another single-game record for field goals (5) against Louisville. He fell two points shy of the NCAA Division I-A record for kicking points.
- Palazzo, who ranks third on Tulane's career field goal list with 41, made a career-long 52-yarder against East Carolina, the first field goal of 50 or more yards by a Tulane kicker since Wayne Clements hit from 52 vs. Florida State in 1985.
- Palazzo has made his last 29 attempts from inside 45 yards, dating back to the 1996 Cincinnati game.
In Jamaican Dartez's six games in the Tulane lineup, the Green Wave running game flourished, averaging 239.8 yards per game. It maintained that momentum in the final three games as Dartez was sidelined for the second time with a fractured left forearm, as freshman Toney Converse picked up the slack. Even QB Shaun King was an integral part of the running game, as all three finished with more than 500 yards rushing - a first in Tulane history.
- In their six games splitting time in the backfield, Dartez and Converse combined to average 152.3 yards per game. In the five victories, they combined for more than 100 yards each time (highest: 217 at USL).
- Dartez rushed for 167 yards against USL, his first 100-yard game since his freshman year and the best effort by a Tulane back since 1978.
- Converse shattered Dartez's two-year-old record for yards rushing by a freshman. Converse has 777 yards (on 137 carries, a 5.7 average), 233 more than Dartez gained his rookie season.
- Converse finished his first year with the highest season per-carry average for a Tulane back (5.7) with 100 carries since Eddie Price in 1949.
- Converse became just the second Tulane true freshman in the last 20 years to rush for 100 yards in a game (Dartez is the other) when he gained 110 yards vs. Army, then topped that with 122 against Houston.
- Dartez is the first player in Tulane history to rush for 500 yards in his freshman, sophomore and junior years. He finished his junior year with 506 yards on 78 carries (a 6.5 average).
- Tulane had not had a 300-yard rushing game since 1990, but topped that mark twice in 1997: 311 at Louisville, 323 at USL.
- FB O'Kie Woods had three TDs in the first seven games despite not starting. He doubled that total against USL with three more scores (two rushing, one receiving).
- The average time of possession on Tulane's 41 touchdown drives: 2:12. Eighteen of the drives took 90 seconds or less.
Keep It . . . Take It Away
Tulane ranked fifth nationally in turnover margin at +1.27 per game (+14 overall), the best mark by a Green Wave team since 1972. Two key reasons:
- Six lost fumbles. Tulane tied a school record in that category, and would have broken it were it not for four lost fumbles in the season finale at Houston.
- Twenty-six interceptions. Tulane had not had more than 11 interceptions in a season since 1990, but the Green Wave more than doubled its previous best of the last six years. That total led the nation and is the second-highest total in school history (the record is 28 in 1970). Thirteen different players had picks, led by Michael Jordan with five. The Green Wave had a season-best five interceptions at USL.
- Tulane had 34 takeaways in 1997 (high: 7 at USL), third-most in the nation.
- Just how important are turnovers? Since the start of the 1986 season, Tulane is 19-8 when it has a turnover margin of plus-2 or better (including the Cincinnati, Louisville, ECU, USL and Memphis games), but only 1-39 when its margin is minus-2 or worse (including Rice and Southern Miss).
Stuffing the Run
After the first three games of the season, Tulane was near the bottom of Division I-A in rushing defense (allowing 263.3 ypg), but the Wave stepped it up in its final six victories, allowing an average of just 76.7 yards on the ground in those wins.
- Tulane held Louisville to minus-23 yards rushing, the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Wave since it held North Carolina State to minus-29 yards in 1970.
Tulane's pass rush was superb against USL and Memphis, producing a combined 15 sacks in those games. The Green Wave had 35 sacks on the year, second only to the school-record 46 in 1973.
- DE Keaton Cromartie had a dominating performance against Memphis with six sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. How dominating? Consider that no Tulane defender had more than six sacks in a season from 1988-96.
- Cromartie's team-leading nine sacks were the most by a Green Wave player since Brian Douglas had 11 in 1981.
The New Guys
- Tulane played nine true freshmen in 1997, including five who started at least once: TB Toney Converse (who was named Houston Chronicle C-USA and Louisiana freshman of the year), SS Corey Jones and WRs Adrian Burnette, Kerwin Cook and John Wilson. The others: T Charles Caldwell, C Tony Cunningham, TE Mike Truax and G Bryson Westbrook.
- Tulane started three true freshmen on offense against Cincinnati (Converse, Wilson, Burnette). In the 1990s, Tulane had started only one true frosh in a season opener - WR Derrick Franklin in 1993.
- Several times against Ole Miss and Houston, Tulane had five freshmen on the field on offense - Converse, Burnette, Cook, Wilson and redshirt freshman T Bernard Robertson.
- Not only did Tulane's defense pitch a pair of shutouts in 1997 (Army, USL) - the Wave's first against a Division I-A team since its historic 14-0 victory over LSU in 1973 - but it held each team under 200 total yards (Army 191, USL 126), the fewest allowed by a Tulane defense since 1979, when Stanford gained 116.
- LB Brian Williams had a team-high 112 tackles, his second straight season as Tulane's leader in tackles, and led or co-led the defense in stops seven times, including a career-high 16 tackles against East Carolina. It marked the eighth straight year a Wave defender has topped the century mark in tackles.
- LB Derrick Singleton, second to Williams on the club in tackles with 88, had a pair of big plays against Louisville - an interception of a screen pass and a forced fumble on a sack. He also had a sack and INT against USL.
- LB Brett Timmons, who had 84 tackles, led the team in tackles for loss with 15, including three against East Carolina, and also had two interceptions.
- CB Michael Jordan set a Tulane record in 1996 with 15 pass breakups and again led the 1997 team in PBUs with 12. He also had a team-high five interceptions.
- SS Corey Jones, a true freshman, made his first career start at USL and had a team-high nine tackles, a fumble recovery and his first career INT.
- DT Dennis O'Sullivan, who led the 1996 club with 11 tackles for loss, had a sack in three straight games in November and led the team with 27 quarterback pressures.
- DT Terence Cook was second on the club in QB pressures (25) and tackles for loss (11) and tied for second in sacks (5).
Noting the Special Teams
- Punter Brad Hill finished with a school-record 46.2 average. He had four kicks for a 53.8 average against Ole Miss, his fifth game with at least a 49-yard average in 1997. Hill averaged 49.7 yards on seven punts against Southern Miss, a career-best 56.0 yards per punt against Army (albeit on only two boots), and 49.4 on five punts at Syracuse.
- Hill received another year of eligibility when he was awarded a medical redshirt for the 1994 season. Hill punted only once that year, in the third game of the season, before he was injured.
- P.J. Franklin ranked nationally in both kickoff returns and punt returns during the season. He had a 51-yard kickoff return and three punt returns for 28 yards against Rice, had six punt returns for 68 yards against Army and had 147 return yards (60 punt, 87 kickoff) against Houston.
- Franklin had a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown against Army called back because of an illegal block. It's the second time in his career an apparent return TD was nullified; he also had a punt return called back against USL in 1995.
- For the second time in as many seasons, Tulane turned an opponent's attempted on-side kick into a touchdown. In 1996, Cory Geason had a 45-yard return for a TD at Cincinnati, and against Louisville, Adam Moorhead scooped a pooch kick on the bounce and rambled 67 yards for a score.
- Tulane had five blocked kicks in 1997. Warren St. Junious (Cincinnati), John Wilson (Louisville) and Manny Cuellar (Ole Miss) have blocked punts, Keaton Cromartie (Memphis) blocked a field goal and Dwight Jones (Rice) got a hand on an extra point attempt.
Off the Field
- Tulane graduated more than 70 percent of its football players for the sixth straight year and was recognized by the College Football Association. Only eight schools have been honored for as many years.
- Tulane has won the first two Conference USA sport academic awards for football, given to the school with the highest grade-point average among its players.
- Two starters - fullback Daryl Jackson and linebacker Brian Williams - were fifth-year seniors in eligibility, but graduate students in the classroom.