Aug 29, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - During his weekly press conference on Tuesday in the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center, second year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson said his team would be taking on a "faceless opponent" in the season-opener as he wanted his team to focus on execution and coming away with the ultimate goal of a win no matter who his team was squaring off against.
On the sideline two days later in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the faces on his sideline were all smiles when the final horn sounded as the Green Wave defeated Jackson State, 34-7, to open the campaign on a high note. Tulane's offense grounded out 158 rushing yards - including a 50-yard, two-touchdown performance by senior running back Orleans Darkwa - and a defense that forced six turnovers courtesy of four interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.
"The victory was outstanding tonight," Johnson said. "It's good to be 1-0. There is a lot to improve on. We'll get better as the season goes on. (The running game) was the first thing that we talked about last year at the end of the season. We have to establish the running game. I thought those guys did pretty well.
"When our defensive line puts pressure on the quarterback, (six turnovers) are the kinds of numbers you'll get. That was the same thing we did with (former New Orleans Saints safety Darren) Sharper. He ran about a 5.3 40 (yard dash), but he was just back there getting catches because we put a lot of heat on guys. That's exactly what we want to do."
Tulane's six takeaways and four interceptions were the most by a Green Wave team since forcing eight turnovers on the strength of five picks and two fumble recoveries at Army on Sept. 20, 2003. The offense's rushing effort, meanwhile, was the most by the team since rumbling for 185 yards at Hawai'i on Nov. 26, 2011, in that year's season finale. Thirteen of Tulane's 34 points came after Jackson State turnovers, and the Green Wave's 27-point margin of victory was the team's largest in a season opener since defeating The Citadel, 54-6, on Sept. 19, 1953, at old Tulane Stadium.
The Green Wave wasted little time jumping ahead as sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Doss intercepted a pass on the first drive of the game and Tulane took advantage seven plays later when senior preseason All-American kicker Cairo Santos nailed a 22-yard field goal to stake the home team to a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the contest.
Following a Jackson State punt on the ensuing possession, the Green Wave got an 11-yard run by junior running back Rob Kelley, a 43-yard pass from junior quarterback Nick Montana to senior wide receiver Ryan Grant and consecutive five-yard runs by Darkwa, the second of which saw the native of Nashville, Tenn., cross the goal line to put Tulane ahead, 10-0.
Two plays later, senior linebacker Kyle Davis picked off a pass to set up a 34-yard Santos field goal and Tulane added a 14-yard scoring strike from Montana to junior wideout Justyn Shackleford with 5:41 to play in the second quarter to send the Green Wave into the locker room at the half with a 20-0 lead. Jackson State had chances to get on the scoreboard twice in the second quarter only to fumble twice inside the Tulane five-yard line and sophomore free safety Darion Monroe and junior strong safety Sam Scofield fell on the respective loose balls to send the Tigers away empty handed.
Senior cornerback Jordan Sullen posted the team's third interception of the game midway through the third quarter to set up a Darkwa one-yard touchdown plunge with 3:30 to play in the period, and Montana found redshirt-freshman wide receiver Devon Breaux from 11 yards out for a score with 9:38 to play in the game to account for Tulane's final tally.
Jackson State avoided the shutout on a nine-yard touchdown run by quarterback Evan Ingram with 4:34 left in regulation, and the Green Wave defense made sure the Tigers would get no closer as rookie cornerback Jarrod Franklin joined the interception parade with a pick of his own with under a minute to go.
Monroe led the team with nine tackles (6 solo, 3 assists) while senior nickelback Derrick Strozier followed with six (2 solo, 4 assists). Sophomore defensive end Royce LaFrance had 1.5 of Tulane's seven tackles for loss and senior defensive end Julius Warmsley posted the squad's lone sack. Grant led the Wave's aerial assault with three receptions for 82 yards.
JSU starting quarterback LaMontiez Ivy paced the Tigers with 133 yards on 9-of-17 passing, but both he and Ingram - who was 6-of-12 for 111 yards - tossed a pair of costly interceptions. Tommy Gooden led all players with 64 rushing yards on 20 carries while Zach Pendleton had a game-high 95 receiving yards on three grabs. John McNabb led the Jackson State defense with 11 stops (9 solo, 2 assists), including a pair of sacks to go with a forced fumble.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Sept. 7, when they play host to South Alabama at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. For tickets to that game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact 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.