Nov. 12, 2010
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University football team returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 13, when the Green Wave play host to Conference USA rival Rice in the Louisiana Superdome. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
The Green Wave enter the conference contest 3-6 on the year, 1-4 in league play and looking to snap a two-game losing streak after falling to SMU and Southern Miss the last two weekends, respectively. Tulane still has bowl aspirations, but will need to win each of its final three regular-season contest to do so. Rice, meanwhile, comes to town 2-7 overall, 1-4 in C-USA action and looking to halt a two-game losing streak of its own after dropping a 41-14 decision at UCF and a 64-27 contest at Tulsa in the Owls' last two outings.
"If you look at these two schools, we're probably more similar than anybody in the conference," Tulane head coach Bob Toledo said. "I know last week they talked about us and Southern Miss being a rivalry game. Well when it's all said and done, I think Rice and us are probably the biggest rivalry in that everything is kind of equal - the same amount of students, the same kind of facilities, academic reputations, so on and so forth. Anyway, this feels more like a rivalry game to me than any of the ones we've played previously, plus we play them every year."
As a team, Tulane is averaging 357.7 yards of total offense per game (132.1 rushing, 225.6 passing) while allowing opponents to tally 378.8 yards per contest (191.2 rushing, 187.6 passing). Freshman Orleans Darkwa, who has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in each of the last three games, leads the Green Wave with 618 yards and eight touchdowns on 115 carries. Junior Albert Williams is second on the team with 331 yards on 78 carries while sophomore Payten Jason follows close behind with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 61 totes.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Griffin has completed 166-of-274 yards for 1,687 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions so far this season, and his favorite target in 2010 has been senior wideout Casey Robottom, who paces the squad with 55 receptions for 633 yards and four touchdowns.
Robottom, however, missed the second half of last week's ballgame against Southern Miss and his status for Saturday's game is still up in the air. In his stead, Tulane will look to the trio of D.J. Banks (39 catches, 340 yards, 2 TDs), Ryan Grant (26-260-1) and Devin Figaro (8-131-1) to provide a solid effort in Tulane's aerial arsenal. Senior tight end Cody Sparks, meanwhile, is enjoying a banner year and is tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions (4) while ranking third in catches (26) and receiving yards (260).
Sophomore middle linebacker Trent Mackey leads the Green Wave defense with 98 tackles (51 solo, 47 assists) while safeties Alex Wacha and Shakiel Smith follow with respective tackle totals of 65 and 63. Tulane has 18 sacks among its 49 tackles for loss and senior defensive tackle Justin Adams paces the team in both categories with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior cornerback Phillip Davis has five of the Wave's 17 take-aways this season with three interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, and he also leads the secondary with eight pass break-ups. Wacha is second on the team with a pair of picks, sophomore defensive end Austen Jacks is tied with Davis for the fumble recoveries lead with two, and sophomore defensive back Ryan Travis has a team-best three forced fumbles.
Rice enters Saturday's matchup averaging 329.9 yards of total offense per game (117.0 rushing, 212.9 passing) while allowing opponents to roll up 452.2 yards per outing (148.8 rushing, 303.4 passing). Sam McGuffie paces the Owls with 642 rushing yards on 149 carries and is tied with Charles Ross and Jeremy Eddington for the rushing touchdowns lead with three each.
Nick Fanuzzi has completed 138-of-221 passes for 1,493 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions and McGuffie has been his favorite target to date as the running back has 32 receptions for 275 yards and a pair of scores. Luke Wilson leads Rice with 315 receiving yards and is tied with Vance McDonald for the aerial touchdown lead with two apiece, while sitting second in receptions with 24.
Corey Frazier leads the Owls' defense with 67 tackles (46 solo, 21 assists) while Travis Bradshaw and Phillip Gaines follow closely with 64 and 48 stops, respectively. Rice has 12 sacks among 28 tackles for loss so far in 2010 and Kramer Lucio paces the club with 3.0 sacks while Cheta Ozougwu has a team-leading 4.5 stop behind the line of scrimmage.
As a team, Rice has forced 11 turnovers with four interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. Frazier, Bradshaw, Justin Hill and Chris Jammer have one pick each while Bradshaw leads the team with a pair of fumble recoveries to his credit. Jammer and Kevin Gaddis headline the Owls' secondary with five pass break-ups apiece.
"Statistically, you look at it and both teams are very close," Toledo said. "We might be ahead of them in some and they're ahead of us in others, but it's right there for each one of us. The only exception is their punter, Kyle Martins, averages 47 yards a punt and a 40 net. He's the No. 1 punter in the conference. That is the only thing that is really different between our two teams in my opinion."
Saturday's game marks the 33rd meeting between the two teams on the gridiron and Rice leads the all-time series, 17-14-1. Tulane is 8-6-1 against the Owls in games played in New Orleans, including a 38-24 decision on Oct. 7, 2006, in the Louisiana Superdome. Rice, however, has won the last two meetings with a 42-17 victory on Oct. 25, 2008, in New Orleans and a 28-20 decision on Nov. 14, 2009, in Houston.
The contest against the Owls is the third of four straight home contests for Tulane as the Wave will face UCF on Nov. 20 before closing out the regular season on Nov. 27 at Marshall. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE. Tickets can be purchase in the Ticket Office, which is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr. Center, over the phone or online at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.