Junior wide receiver Ryan Grant had six catches for 110 yards in Saturday's 24-12 season-opening loss to Rutgers in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Sept. 1, 2012
Coach Johnson's Pregame Speech To The Team
NEW ORLEANS - Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin completed 34-of-48 passes for 254 yards - including an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Rob Kelley - and junior wide receiver Ryan Grant had six catches for 110 yards, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 24-12 decision to Rutgers in the season opener for both teams on Saturday evening in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Green Wave defense held the Scarlet Knights to 309 yards of total offense, but big plays and penalties proved to be the difference as Tulane fell in the debut of first-year head coach Curtis Johnson. The loss was the first in a season opener by Tulane since falling to Tulsa, 37-13, on Sept. 4, 2009.
"Give credit to Rutgers," Johnson said. "I thought they came in and played well. They ran the ball pretty well on us. I thought the defense played well. We just have to do a better job. I think the worst thing about tonight was the penalties - 11 for 120 (yards), that's a football field worth of penalties. That's two touchdowns that we just gave away. We have to do a better job running the football."
Rutgers ran for 151 yards on the night and held the Green Wave ground attack to just eight yards. Turnovers and big plays haunted Tulane in key situations as a long kickoff return led to a Scarlet Knights' touchdown late in the first half and an interception return by Rutgers defensive back accounted for another. In addition, the Knights had a 46-yard scoring run by Jawan Jamison and a 43-yard touchdown pass from Gary Nova to Brandon Coleman to account for their point total.
Grant, who played in his first game since suffering an injury in last year's season opener, posted the third 100-yard receiving day of his career, and three Tulane defensive veterans tallied career-high tackle totals. Senior safety Devon Walker led the way with nine tackles (7 solo, 2 assists) while junior linebacker Zach Davis had eight stops (5 solo, 3 assists) and sophomore defensive tackle Kenny Welcome added four (all solo). Senior cornerback Ryan Travis accounted for Tulane's lone forced turnover with a second-quarter interception which helped set up a 40-yard field goal by junior Cairo Santos.
"I think we just have to keep working," Johnson said. "We have some young kids that played well. Some guys in the secondary, I really liked what they did. Also, we know that there's a progression in getting better. There are some things we have to change. As far as just operating in the game, I thought we were doing the stuff we wanted. We just had too many negative plays and the inability to run the football."
Following a scoreless first quarter, Rutgers drew first blood on Jamison's long touchdown run with 9:43 to play before halftime. Travis' interception and Santos' field goals cut the deficit to 7-3 with 41 second before the break, but Rutgers' Jeremy Deering, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to swing momentum back to the Scarlet Knights' sideline. The Rutgers offense responded with a five-play, 34-yard drive which Kyle Federico capped with a 28-yard field goal on the final play on the second quarter to make it 10-3 at the half.
Both teams had long drives stall to open the third quarter, and Tulane had something going late in the fame as the Green Wave held the ball first-and-10 from the Rutgers 16. The Green Wave could only manage four more yards over the next three plays and Santos connected on his second field goal of the day - this time from 32 yards out - to make it 10-6 early in the fourth.
The Green Wave defense allowed just one first down on the ensuing drive, but Jones stepped in front of a Griffin pass two plays later and took it to the house to stake Rutgers to a 17-6 advantage. Following a three-and-out by Tulane, the Scarlet Knights all but put the Wave away on Nova's scoring strike to Coleman with 7:30 left to play. Griffin's touchdown pass to Kelley 5:07 later accounted for the final score.
"I thought coming out of halftime we had a good drive going," Johnson added. "The momentum was on our side. We didn't punch that one in. Then they changed field position on us and we had the big turnover. One thing about those kids is they never quit fighting. It could have been a lot worse. They fought. They hung in there. They put together a good drive at the end. We did score, we had another opportunity, but it just wasn't our night."
Jamison led Rutgers with 112 rushing yards on 18 carries and Nova completed 11-of-20 passes for 158 yards. Tim Wright was Nova's favorite target on the night with three catches while Jamison and Brandon Coleman each had two grabs for 41 yards. Khaseem Greene paced the Scarlet Knight defense with 14 tackles (9 solo, 5 assists) and had one of Rutgers' three sacks.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Sept. 8, when they open the Conference USA portion of their schedule at Tulsa. Kickoff for that game is slated for 11 a.m. and the game will be televised nationally on the Fox Sports Network. Tulane's next home game will be on Sept. 22, when the Wave play host to Ole Miss at 11 a.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Season and individual-game ticket sales for the 2012 football season are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr., 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.