The Tulane football team will open its second season under head coach Curtis Johnson on Thursday when the Green Wave play host to Jackson State at 7 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Aug 28, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Following what has been an offseason of optimism and high expectations, the Tulane University football team will kick off the 2013 season on Thursday, Aug. 29, when the Green Wave play host to Jackson State at 7 p.m. (CDT) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Entering its second season under head coach Curtis Johnson, the Green Wave will be facing a first-time opponent as Tulane and Jackson State have never previously met on the gridiron. Tulane is not unfamiliar with teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, however, as the Wave are 2-0 against Southern with wins in 2001 and 2002. The Tigers are NCAA-Football Championship Subdivision members (formerly NCAA Division I-AA), and Tulane is a perfect 10-0 against FCS foes.
"It's a faceless opponent for us," Johnson said. "We've been through a hard training camp. We had a hard spring ball. The off-season program was hard. It's time for us to get a reward and the only reward is to win the first one. It's one game at a time. Everything that we've got is in Jackson State."
Thursday's game will be broadcast on the flagship station of Tulane Football, WMTI 106.1 FM "The Ticket", and live audio and video streaming will be available on the web at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. Live stats are also available on the Internet courtesy of GameTracker, and the game will be televised via taped delay on WHNO TV 20 on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 6:30 p.m.
Tulane went 2-10 during Johnson's inaugural season at the helm of the program, but the team looks to spark a major turnaround in what will be the program's final year as a member of Conference USA. The Green Wave return 18 starters among 47 lettermen from a year ago, including 2012 consensus All-American kicker Cairo Santos - who won Groza Award and is a member of the trophy's preseason watchlist this year - as well as the leading returning rusher in junior running back Rob Kelley, receiver in senior wideout Ryan Grant and tackler in sophomore safety Darion Monroe.
In addition, Tulane welcomes back a healthy Orleans Darkwa, who paced the team in rushing his first two seasons before suffering through an injury-marred junior campaign in 2012, and sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Doss, who picked off a team-best five passes as a true freshman last season.
The Green Wave also have a boatload of newcomers as 29 true freshmen and five transfers dot the 2013 roster. Among the new faces on the squad are junior Nick Montana, who will start under center against Jackson State, and defensive tackle Chris Davenport, who comes to Tulane as a graduate student after playing the last three years at LSU.
Several of the newcomers are expected to see time vs. the Tigers, but Johnson was quick to point out that gaining experience is not the lone goal for Thursday's contest.
"The first goal of playing these games is to win the game," Johnson said. "No matter what we want to do, we want to win the game. These competition battles in camp - if you guys were around at camp - were very, very heated and very close battles. Freshmen and seniors, sometimes you didn't know the difference between the two. I think some kids have earned the right to play and earned the right to get a chance to showcase their skills. We're going to play a lot of guys."
Jackson State, meanwhile, comes to town following a 2012 season which saw the Tigers go 7-5, win the SWAC's Eastern Division and fall three points shy in overtime during the conference title game. JSU returns 51 lettermen from last season, including 15 starters.
Quarterback Clayton Moore returns after throwing for 1,863 yards and 11 touchdowns on 127-of-246 passing while running 141 times for 633 yards and 11 scores. Rakeem Sims is the top returning rushing leader with 784 yards and nine touchdowns on 152 carries and Zach Pendelton is the top returning receiver with 33 grabs for 457 yards and a TD.
Defensively, safety Cameron Loeffler led the team with 84 tackles and logged 4.5 sacks while cornerback Qua Cox paced the SWAC with five interceptions a year ago.
"One thing about this quarterback that they have is he's a dynamite player," Johnson added. "He led them to the SWAC Championship Game and they should have won it. He embodies what they do. He's an option quarterback. He can pull it. He can run it. He extends plays. He's a very, very good player.
"If we can get a handle on him and contain him, it heightens our chances of winning this game. He's a little bit like a Donavan McNabb-type of guy who's an athletic guy who all of a sudden will tuck it away and run with it. He's a good football player."
Season and single-game tickets remain on sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE (9283). Single-game tickets for Thursday's season opener will be available through the Superdome Box Office, located at Gate A Ground on Poydras Street.
The Tulane Ticket office, which is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center, will be open until 4 p.m. on Thursday and the Superdome Box Office will open at 5 p.m. Gates, meanwhile, will open at 6 p.m.