Oct. 4, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - After playing its last three games on the road, the Tulane University football team will look to have a happy homecoming - literally - when the Green Wave play host to Conference USA newcomer North Texas in a Homecoming 2013 on Saturday, Oct. 5, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. and will be televised live nationally on Fox College Sports.
The Wave have made significant progress in their second year under the direction of head coach Curtis Johnson - sporting a winning record after five games for the first time since 2003 and already winning a pair of road games after winning just three over the previous three years combined. Homecoming contests, however, have not been kind to Tulane of late as the team's last homecoming victory came in 2006 when the Green Wave downed Army 42-28 on Oct. 28.
"Whenever you want to win, there are a couple of things you want to do as a program," second-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson said. "You want to start winning on the road. Then you want to win a homecoming game with all the alumni, the boosters, everybody in their childhood and the older people who want to come back and want to feel good about the game. Like I told the team, the only way a homecoming is good is when you win. It's not any good if you lose.
"This is a big challenge for us. This team is a good football team - very good. I've been watching then almost 24-7, and you look at what they did to Georgia. This team could have beat Georgia. It was 21-21 in the third quarter, and Georgia just went out and upset LSU. Now, all of a sudden, here you go, you're playing another one. This is another good team."
In addition to the live television coverage, Tulane/North Texas contest will also be broadcast on the flagship radio station for Green Wave football - WMTI 106.1 FM "The Ticket" - and live audio will be available on the web at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. The game will also be televised via tape delay locally on WHNO-TV 20 on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and live stats are available on the Internet for free courtesy of GameTracker.
Senior tailback Orleans Darkwa leads the Tulane ground game with 303 yards and six touchdowns on 69 carries while junior fullback Rob Kelley is second on the squad with 272 yards and two scores on 44 totes. Junior quarterback Nick Montana orchestrates the offense, and has completed 84-of-155 passes for 984 yards and nine touchdowns. Senior wideout Ryan Grant headlines the aerial attack with 33 catches for 461 yards and four touchdowns with junior receiver Justyn Shackleford sitting second with 13 receptions for 169 yards and three scores.
On defense, the Green Wave has 11 sacks among 35 tackles for loss, forced 16 turnovers with nine interceptions and seven fumble recoveries, and batted down 35 opponent passes. Junior strong safety Sam Scofield paces the team with 33 tackles (26 solo, 7 assists) while sophomore free safety Darion Monroe (20 solo, 10 assists) and freshman linebacker Nico Marley (13 solo, 12 assists) follow with 30 and 25 stops, respectively.
Senior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley leads the unit with 6.5 tackles for loss while sharing the top spot in forced fumbles with sophomore cornerback Jordan Batiste at two each. Junior defensive end Tyler Gilber paces the squad with 2.5 sacks, sophomore corner Lorenzo Doss has a team-best two interceptions, and the quartet of Doss, Scofield, senior cornerback Jordan Sullen and senior nickelback Derrick Strozier share the team lead with five pass break-ups each.
North Texas, meanwhile, comes to town 2-2 on the year and fresh off a bye after falling to nationally-ranked Georgia, 45-21, back on Sept. 21 in Athens, Ga. As a team, the Mean Green are averaging 410.0 yard of total offense per game (132.2 rushing, 277.8 passing) while giving up an average of 488.2 per contest on defense (174.0 rushing, 314.2 passing).
Quarterback Derek Thompson directs the offensive attack, posting 1,020 yards and six touchdowns on 94-of-139 passing while running for 79 yards and a score on 20 carries. Brandin Byrd leads North Texas with 186 rushing yards and shares the rushing touchdown lead with Reggie Pegram - who has 131 yards on 36 totes - with two apiece. Darnell Smith leads the receiving corps with 28 catches for 271 yards and a pair of scoring grabs.
Defensively, the Mean Green have five sacks among 14 tackles for loss, forced 13 turnovers with eight fumble recoveries and five interceptions, and batted down 13 passes. Zachary Orr leads the team with 42 tackles (19 solo, 23 assists) while Marcus Trice (17 solo, 18 assists) and Derek Akunne (14 solo, 19 assists) follow with 35 and 33 stops, respectively.
Aaron Bullanzin paces the squad with 3.0 tackles for loss and Jarrian Roberts share the lead with 2.0 sacks. Will Wright leads North Texas with two interceptions and three pass break-ups, Orr and Lairamie Lee share the team lead in forced fumbles with two each, and trio of Orr, Lee and Kenny Buyers are tied atop the squad stat sheet with two fumble recoveries apiece.
Saturday's game will be North Texas' first C-USA debut after spending the previous 12 seasons as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. Tulane, meanwhile, will look to improve to 2-0 in league action for the first time since 1998.
"The one thing that we talk about is single-minded focus," Johnson said. "Our single-minded focus is the next play, the next game, the next time, the next meeting. When you're building something, or you're trying to build something, that's what I think you have to do. You can't give them too broad of a picture because if you do, something gets lost in the wash. I think it's just one thing after another."
For tickets to Saturday's game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
Single-game tickets for the Tulane/North Texas game will be available through the Superdome Box Office, located at Gate A Ground on Poydras Street, on game day. The Dome's box office will open at 12:30 p.m. and gates will open at 1:30 p.m.
Pregame Festivities: Due to the forecast effects of Tropical Storm Karen as it approaches the Gulf Coast are, all official tailgating activities on the roof of Garage 5 and 6 have been suspended. The St. Charles Lounge, located inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, will open at 12:30 p.m. Any ticketed guest may enter the lounge, and guests will have full access to a cash/card bar and the opportunity to purchase food. No outside food or beverage will be permitted inside the Superdome. To enter, fans are asked to go to the Northwest escalator located by Gate G. In addition, Tulane Athletic Fund donors will also have access into the Claiborne Lounge at 12:30 p.m. Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys will be performing from 1:00 to 2:15 p.m. in the St. Charles Lounge. The remainder of the Superdome will open at 1:30 p.m.