Tulane returns to the road with a 4 p.m. matchup versus in-state foe Louisiana-Lafayette at Cajun Field in its fourth road trip of the season. After dropping its first two contests of 2000 -- to Ole Miss and East Carolina -- the Green Wave has won back-to-back games for the first time since September of 1999, evening its overall record at 2-2 and its Conference USA mark at 1-1.
The Last Time
Tulane and ULL have played in each of the last three seasons with the Green Wave claiming victory on each occasion. Last year in New Orleans, Tulane sprinted out to a 21-7 first-quarter lead on its way to 584 yards of total offense and a 48-32 victory in the Superdome. (See complete review page 6.)
The Green Wave won its second straight contest, and picked up its first league win of the year, with a 24-19 victory over Cincinnati in the Superdome Saturday. Tulane scored three touchdowns in the first half, then left it to the Wave defense to shut down the Bearcats in the final half. The defense responded, allowing Cincinnati just one touchdown all game as Lynaris Elpheage picked off a pair of passes and Noel Ellis had a key fumble recovery. Freshmen Mewelde Moore continued to lead the Tulane offense as he gained 100 yards rushing for the third straight game.
Tulane returns to non-conference play with the third (of its four) non-conference game this year after a C-USA win over Cincinnati last week. Tulane is 1-1 versus non-conference foes in 2000 and is 11-12 in non-conference contests since Conference USA play began in 1996. This season marks the first time that C-USA will play a seven-game league schedule, leaving just four non-conference openings. In 1996, teams played five league games. That number stood at six from 1997-99 until moving to seven this year. With the addition of TCU to Conference USA in 2001, C-USA will consist of 10 teams, with South Florida slated to be the 11th football-playing school beginning in 2003. Teams will play eight conference games in 2002.
Freshman Mewelde Moore is making his way to the top of the national lists, adding his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game Saturday versus Cincinnati, despite suffering a sprained ankle at the end of the first half and missing nearly the entire third quarter. Moore had 114 yards on 15 carries, including a 58-yard pick-up on third-and-25 that led to Tulane's first touchdown. Moore's 431 yards and 107.8 per game average leads Conference USA and ranks him 19th nationally. He is the top freshman ground-gainer in the nation in total yards. Moore is just the fifth player in Tulane history to post back-to-back-to-back 100-yard games. Toney Converse last accomplished the feat at the end of the '98 season. All-time great Eddie Price holds the record with six straight 100-yard games. The San Diego Padres' fourth-round draft choice (and signee) completed his first collegiate pass against the Bearcats, a throwback to quarterback J.P. Losman, and has caught 10 passes for 112 yards on the year.
Moore has been difficult to bring down. In the last two games, the 6-1, 195-pound back has gained a total of 173 yards after first contact. Versus SMU, of his total 104 yards, 84 came after the initial man put his hands on Mewelde. It was more of the same against Cincinnati, as Moore gained 89 of his 114 yards following the first hit.
Moore was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance versus Cincinnati, which included 128 yards of total offense and 136 all-purpose yards in addition to his rushing totals.
Through its first four games, Tulane leads Conference USA in third down conversions. The Green Wave has been successful on 27 of its 62 third down tries in 2000, good for a 43.5 conversion percentage. Tulane was successful on nine of 17 third down tries versus East Carolina and SMU before hitting a lull and converting just 3-of-11 third downs against Cincinnati.
A Tale of Two Halves
Part of the story for the Tulane offense this year has been a tale of two halves. The Green Wave has scored 67 of its 90 points on the year -- 74% -- in the first half of its four games. TU is a quick-starting team, as evidenced by its 36 first-quarter points. On the other hand, the Green Wave is a little slow starting out of the locker room after the halftime break, scoring just one touchdown (versus Ole Miss) in the third quarter. It's a similar story for the Green Wave defense as it has allowed opponents just 17 first-quarter and 43 first-half points, a little more than 35% of their total. Tulane opponents -- especially Ole Miss and East Carolina -- have scored 79 points in the second half and have outscored the Green Wave 44-7 in the third quarter.
Senior receiver Adrian Burnette continued his touchdown-catching ways with his fifth score of the season early in the Cincinnati game. Burnette caught a 10-yard strike from Patrick Ramsey for the Wave's first touchdown on his way to his second 100-yard game of the year and eighth of his career. Burnette leads Conference USA in touchdowns, is tied for the team lead in scoring (with kicker Seth Marler) and now ranks sixth on the Tulane career record list for TD catches. Burnette and his fellow wide receivers have caught all eight of the Green Wave's touchdown passes this year.
Making the Adjustment
A high school quarterback at New Orleans' Carver High, true freshman Lynaris Elpheage is showing that he is quickly making the adjustment to defense after picking off two passes versus Cincinnati. The INTs were Tulane's first of the season and came at critical moments in the game. The first was in the Tulane endzone after Cincinnati had reached the TU nine-yard line while the second stopped a potential Bearcat score that would have given UC a late lead in the game.
In Their Neighborhood
Five Tulane players, along with Head Coach Chris Scelfo and Assistant Coach Frank Scelfo, will be heading toward home when the Green Wave hits the road to Lafayette this weekend. The Scelfos, along with freshman offensive lineman Joe Mitchell and defensive back Jamal Jones, hail from New Iberia, La. which is near Lafayette. Also heading back toward their hometowns are defensive end Roxie Shelvin (Franklin), and offensive lineman Seth Zaunbrecher (Crowley).
The senior linebacking duo of Jerry Phillips and Noel Ellis continues to lead the Green Wave defensively. The two rank one (Phillips) and two (Ellis) on the 2000 Tulane tackle chart with 39 and 32 tackles, respectively. Ellis leads Tulane with five tackles for loss and has two-and-a-half sacks on the year. He caused a pair of fumbles versus Cincinnati and recovered one as he had 11 total tackles in the game. Phillips made a team season high 16 stops versus the Bearcats. Phillips, who was named to the preseason Watch List for the Butkus Award for the second straight year, has made 22 career starts, and has compiled 279 career tackles, including 162 solo stops. Ellis, despite sharing the starting assignment with David Dorsey earlier this season, has totalled 203 career stops, 126 unassisted, and has registered 21 tackles for loss and 6.5 quarterback sacks during his career.
Punter Casey Roussel and kicker Seth Marler continue to rank among the national leaders in their respective specialties. Roussel's 44.2-yard average leads Conference USA by 2.5 yards and ranks 10th nationally as Tulane also ranks 10th nationally in net punting and is atop the C-USA list. Marler has hit at least one field goal in every Green Wave game this year and is seven-of-nine in three-pointers on the year, having missed only a 46 and a 52-yarder. He likewise ranks 10th in the nation in field goals made. He leads Tulane in scoring along with Adrian Burnette and is tied for third in the conference in that category.
Senior defensive linemen Mitch Mouton suffered a sprained left ankle in the Cincinnati game and his status is doubtful for the game at Lafayette this weekend. Runningback Mewelde Moore also sprained his ankle, but returned to play in the game and he is day-to-day this week.
Preseason Award Notes
In addition to Jerry Phillips' mention on the Butkus Award Watch List, junior punter Casey Roussel made the Watch List for the new Ray Guy Award, which will go the nation's top punter in 2000. Roussel currently leads Conference USA in punting with a 43.3-yard average. Senior offensive tackle Bernard Robertson was selected to the preseason All-Conference USA team in a vote by league coaches.
Tulane plays its second home game of the season as the Green Wave takes on Southern Miss in the Superdome in the annual Homecoming game.