Oct. 7, 2006
NEW ORLEANS, La-The Tulane University football team tallied 487 yards of total offense and posted 13 pass break-ups and three sacks as the Green Wave defeated Conference USA foe Rice, 38-24, Saturday afternoon at the Louisiana Superdome.
Senior quarterback Lester Ricard posted his second consecutive 300-yard passing day, completed 21 of 40 passes for 344 yards and a season-best four touchdowns. Not to be outdone, junior running back Matt Forté ran for 178 yards and a score and snared four passes for 57 yards and another touchdown.
Defensively, the Green Wave bent at times but never broke. Swarming to the football on almost every down, Tulane posted season-highs in tackles for loss (13), pass break-ups (13) and sacks (three). The defense turned away the Owls on 10 of 16 third-down conversion opportunities and twice on fourth down. Tulane, meanwhile, converted eight of its 14 third-down opportunities, including four of five in the fourth quarter.
"In games like this, there are always three or four plays that I think really decide the outcome," Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo said. "Today, we made them. The way we were able to convert on third down was big. A couple of them were some big-time plays and I thought the No. 1 thing we did a nice job of today was protecting the quarterback.
Tulane broke a 7-all tie early in the ballgame when Ricard connected with sophomore wideout Brian King 11:27 into the ballgame and the Green Wave never trailed again. The Owls trimmed the lead to four on a 25-yard field goal by Clark Fangmeieriwth 11:39 left to play in the second quarter, but the Green Wave followed with a 45-yard field goal by rookie Ross Thevenot and a 21 scoring strike from Ricard to junior Kenneth Guidroz to take a 24-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Rice scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half on a four-yard pass from Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard, but Forté took over from there, sandwiching a one-yard touchdown run and an eight yard TD catch around a late-third quarter scoring strike from Clement to Joel Armstrong to account for the final score.
Things got hairy for the Green Wave early in the second half. Following Rice's Clement-to-Dillard touchdown, the Owls sacked Ricard on the ensuing drive and forced a fumble which was recovered by DaJaun Cooper. Tulane's defense, however, held Rice to minus-two yards on the drive after the turnover, and Luke Juist's 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The ball found its way to Forté from there, and the third-year back from Slidell, La., responded by accounting for all 73 yards of the Green Wave's next drive. After catching an eight-yard pass from Ricard, Forté broke off a career-long 64-yard run on a draw play, and two plays later, scored from one yard out.
Clement's 27-yard pass to Armstrong made it a one-touchdown game, but the Green Wave once again hitched its wagon to its featured back, and Forté responded with four carries for 15 yards and two catches for 17 yards, including an eight-yard scoring reception to put the game away.
"I thought the way Matt really made himself an all around player today was the way he caught the football and the way he saw the holes," Scelfo said. "He doesn't have the greatest of speed, but at the end of a run, he'll put his head down and get something going. If he gets his momentum going, he's going to get another two yards."
Rice did not stop fighting, however, but the Green Wave defense found ways to keep the Owls at bay the rest of the afternoon. Following Forté's second score of the day, Tulane's D forced a punt and a turnover on downs before junior defensive back David Skehan snared his second interception in as many weeks with 1:42 left in regulation.
Juniors Joe Goosby and Louis Thomas led Tulane with 11 tackles each, while Skehan was close behind with eight. Senior cornerback Israel Route and Goosby posted career-bests with five and three passes defensed, respectively, and senior defensive lineman Taurean Brown led all players with three tackles for loss.
Eight Tulane receivers caught a pass on the day - including five with at least three receptions - and redshirt-freshman Jeremy Williams paced the bunch with five catches for 97 yards, both career highs.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Oct. 14, when they begin a two-week road trip in El Paso, Texas, where Tulane will battle UTEP at 8 p.m. From there, Tulane will play at Auburn on Oct. 21 before returning to the Superdome for Homecoming 2006 vs. Army on Oct. 28. Tickets for those game, and future Green Wave contests, remain for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office.
The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center, and tickets can be purchased in person, via the telephone at (504) 861-WAVE or via the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com. In addition, single-game tickets are also available via Ticket Master at www.TicketMaster.com and at all Ticket Master outlets.