Oct. 24, 2007
By Tim Doherty
Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger
Tulane running back Matt Forté leads the nation in rushing (180.4 yards per game) after a 342-yard performance in the Green Wave's overtime win over SMU Saturday - his second 300-yard game.
Tulane was expected to be a number of things this season: young, rebuilding, unpredictable.
What the Green Wave was not supposed to be was the proud owner of the top rusher among Division I-A's 119 programs.
Not that Matt Forté wasn't considered one of the best backs in Conference USA. It's just that no one was really sure how good Tulane would be up front and what kind of adjustment might be needed with a new coaching staff installing their offensive scheme.
The answers: good enough and very little.
Forté pushed his own bar even higher Saturday, breaking his own school and conference records set a month earlier with 342 yards rushing in Tulane's 41-34 overtime win over SMU.
He scored four times, including a career-long 77-yard run.
Forté had run for 303 yards against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 22.
He leads the nation at 180.4 yards per game, having rushed for 200 yards or more in four of Tulane's past five games.
"I've said that he's a great player," said Tulane coach Bob Toledo, who once coached at UCLA. "I reserve that word for very few people, and he's a great football player.
"You know all his stats, but he's No. 1 in the nation in rushing, he's No. 2 in all-purpose yards and No. 10 in scoring. He's really our football team, right now offensively."
Forté was named Walter Camp Player of the Week and C-USA Offensive Player of the Week, but didn't earn Louisiana Player of the Week. LSU quarterback Matt Flynn earned that nod.
"So what does that tell you," Toledo said.
Tulane (2-5, 1-2 C-USA) not only snapped a three-game skid with the win but an eight-game C-USA road losing streak.
"He's supposed to be 220, 225 pounds, but he's really fast," West said of Forté. "I haven't seen anybody catch him from behind."
And how good does West think Forté is?
"You don't run for 300-plus yards by accident," West said. "It doesn't happen. You're pretty good if you can run for 300. That's unbelievable."
Not only does C-USA have the nation's No. 1 rusher, the conference also boasts No. 2
UCF running back Kevin Smith, who ran for 170 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Knights' 44-23 win over Tulsa Saturday, is averaging 155.0 yards per game on the ground.
"I put on the film and almost called Ty (Nix, South Carolina defensive coordinator) and asked him if his brother was playing down there at Central Florida," USM linebackers coach Dave Wommack said. "His running style is like Derrick (Nix's), from the standpoint that he is very physical and very strong, and he's got quick feet.
"He's not a burner, but he's 4.55 (seconds in the 40-yard dash), which is good speed."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Houston safety Rocky Schwartz and UCF defensive end Bruce Miller were named co-Defensive Players of the Week, while Memphis place-kicker Matt Reagan was named Special Teams Player of the Week.
Schwartz had two interceptions and three tackles in UH's 49-10 win over UAB, while Miller made a career-high nine tackles, including two sacks, and forced a fumble in UCF's win.
Reagan scored 12 points with three field goals and three extra points in UM's 38-35 win at Rice.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
UTEP coach Mike Price offered a somewhat novel - if totally illegal - idea on how to slow down Houston's high-powered offense.
"We need to figure out a way to put five or six guys on the running back," Price said, "and five or six guys on the wide receiver, and four or five guys on the tight end, and play with 16 or 17 guys on defense. It's that simple."