Redshirt-freshman tight end Matt Marfisi and the Green Wave football team will look to get over the hump on Saturday when Tulane takes on Army at Michie Stadium.
Sept. 30, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - When the Tulane University football team lines up to face Army on Saturday, Oct. 1, in West Point, N.Y., the Green Wave will find themselves in a familiar position against a familiar opponent. But when the game kicks off at 11 a.m., the Wave will be looking to move into uncharted territory as far as recent history goes.
Following a disappointing 48-27 loss at Duke, Tulane heads to Michie Stadium 2-2 for the fourth straight season under fifth-year head coach Bob Toledo and will be facing the Black Knights in a pivotal game five for the fourth time during his tenure. In each of the previous three match-ups, however, Army walked away with the victory by a combined score of 104-53.
"It's the most difficult week of the season for us a staff and I say that because what Army does is something that we never see," Toledo said. "They're running a wishbone offense. They're running a double-eagle flex - the old Chicago Bear defense where they're attacking you. We just don't see it. We've got a lot of preparation this week to get ready for a football game.
"They've hurt us the last couple of years...If we can come back being 3-2, that would be a relatively good start for us. Not what we wanted but at least it keeps us in the hunt. It's a big game."
Saturday's game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network (Cox New Orleans Channel 315, DirecTV Channel 613, Dish Network Channel 152). In addition, the Tulane/Army contest will be aired live on the flagship radio station of Green Wave football, WIST AM 690, while live audio is available on-line at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. Live stats are also available on the web courtesy of GameTracker, and a new, interactive option is available via "Tulane Live".
As a team, Tulane is averaging 371.5 yards of total offense per game (125.5 rushing, 246.0 passing) while allowing opponents to tally a mark of 377.0 (122.2 rushing, 254.8 passing). The Green Wave do, however, hold a 126-122 lead in point differential through their first four ballgames.
Sophomore Orleans Darkwa leads the Tulane ground game with 161 yards and two touchdowns on 56 carries while senior Albert Williams is close behind with 158 rushing yards and a score on 34 totes. Junior quarterback Ryan Griffin has completed 68-of-118 passes for 906 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, and has done a good job spreading the ball around as 16 Tulane players have at least one reception.
Senior wideout Joe Kemp paces the receiving corps with 17 catches for 187 yards and freshman Justyn Shackleford is next with nine grabs for 162 yards. Sophomore Wilson Van Hooser leads the squad with a pair of touchdown receptions while Kemp, redshirt-freshman tight end Matt Marfisi, junior tight end Brock Sanders, junior wide receiver Ryan Grant, and junior linebacker Trent Mackey - who has seen time on offense at fullback in goal-line situations - have one scoring grab each.
Mackey paces the defense with 48 tackles (27 solo, 21 assists) and four tackles for loss. He also has one of the Green Wave's three defensive touchdowns in 2011 courtesy of a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown two weeks ago at UAB. Junior safety Shakiel Smith is second on the squad with 25 stops (19 solo, 6 assists) and sophomore defensive tackle Julius Warmseley - who spent a year at the U.S. Military Prep Academy - has a team-best 3.0 sacks.
Junior cornerback Ryan Travis and sophomore nickelback Derrick Strozier are tied for the team lead with two interceptions apiece and the duo joins Mackey with pick-sixes to date. Travis has three of the Green Wave's 14 pass break-ups, while senior defensive end Dezman Moses, freshman safety Renaldo Thomas, junior defensive end Austen Jacks and redshirt-freshman special teamer Taylor Bullock have one forced fumble each. Moses and Jacks, meanwhile, both have a fumble recovery.
"(Reversing recent history) all comes (down to) leadership," Toledo said. "I think there's something to that and I think some of players are starting to realize that. Some guys are starting to step up a little more and become leaders...We need guys to hurt a little bit more. It's got to hurt to lose. I hope that some guys do step up. I can't keep yelling and screaming and getting after them. They've got to do it themselves."
Army, meanwhile, enters the weekend 1-3 on the year and is looking to bounce back from a 48-21 loss to Ball State last week in Muncie, Ind. As a team, the Black Knights are averaging 411.0 yards of total offense per game (372.2 rushing, 38.8 passing) while allowing opponents to post 413.8 yards per contest (178.0 rushing, 235.8 passing).
Four Army players have at least 200 yards on the ground and quarterback Trent Steelman paces the squad with 383 yards and seven touchdowns on 77 carries. Raymond Maples is next with 282 and two scores followed by Malcolm Brown (268 yards, 1 TD) and Jared Hassin (226 yards).
Steelman has completed 8-of-25 passes for 135 yards and a pair of interceptions and his favorite target to date has been Jared McFarlin, who has six receptions for 60 yards - including a touchdown grab from reserve signal caller Max Jenkins.
Steve Erzinger leads the Black Knights' defense with 51 tackles (17 solo, 34 assists), 5.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Tyler Dickson is second on the team with 21 stops (7 solo, 14 assists) and has Army's lone interception. Justin Trimble has two of the Knights' five pass break-ups while Andrew Rodriguez and Clayton Keller have a fumble recovery and forced fumble, respectively.
"They're going to run the ball and throw a half a dozen passes at you," Toledo said of Army. "That's their system. They're not going to throw the football that much. Now they're probably come out and throw it against us, right? But the point is they were down by a bunch of points and they came back. They scored three touchdowns at the end and did some nice things running the option and pitching the ball. They were way behind and were still running the football.
"You need to get ahead of them quick because what happens against them is you don't get many possessions. Usually, we get 12 to 13 possessions a game. Now people are getting that against them because they've been turning the ball over. But if they don't turn the ball over, they make two, three yards, four yards. On fourth-and-one, they're going for it and they make it and they keep the ball away from you."
This weekend's ballgame marks the 19th time the two teams have met on the gridiron and Tulane holds a slight 9-8-1 advantage in the all-time series. The Black Knights have won three of the last four head-to-head matchups, including 41-23 decision last Oct. 9 in the Louisiana Superdome. The Green Wave, however, won the last game played in West Point with a 17-16 victory on Oct. 3, 2009.
Following the trip to Army, the Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Oct. 8, when they play host to Syracuse in the Louisiana Superdome. Kickoff for that game will be 7 p.m. and the game will be carried live on Cox Sports Television.
Season ticket sales are still available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office, with packages starting as low as $90. Single-game sideline tickets are $35, adult endzone seats selling for $20 and youth endzone seats cost $10. 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.