Nov. 29, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane football team will attempt to stake it claim to the 2013 Conference USA West Division title this Saturday when the Green Wave takes on Rice on the regular season finale for both teams at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. Kickoff is slated for 2:05 p.m. CST and the game will be broadcast live nationally on Fox College Sports.
Saturday's contest will also be broadcast live on the flagship radio station or Green Wave football - WMTI 106.1 FM "The Ticket" - and audio streaming will be available on the web at TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. Live game stats are also available on-line for free via GameTracker.
The C-USA West Division title is still up for grabs between four teams, including both Tulane and Rice, along with North Texas and UTSA. A Tulane win, coupled with a loss by UTSA to Louisiana Tech, would send the Green Wave into the C-USA Championship game for the first time in school history. TU is tied with North Texas and UTSA for second place, while Rice is first.
"The bottom line is we just have to win," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "No matter what happens, we just have to win. We are going to approach it like any other game. Even though there is definitely something on the line, you want to look at yourself at the end of the year and have a good taste in your mouth. If we win this game, at least we are tied for a (division) championship. This one is for all of the marbles. We have to win this game."
Tulane (7-4, 5-2 C-USA) will look to pick up its eighth win of the year, which would tie for the most in one season since the Green Wave completed the 2002 campaign with an 8-5 record. At 7-4, Tulane is bowl eligible and guaranteed its first winning season since 2002, which was also the Wave's last bowl appearance when TU downed Hawai'i in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl, 36-28 and finished 8-5.
Saturday's game marks Tulane's final conference game as a C-USA member. The Wave was a founding member of C-USA and won at Cincinnati, 34-14, in the first-ever league game on Aug. 30, 1996. Tulane will become a member of the American Athletic Conference on July 1, 2014.
Tulane ranks second nationally (1st in C-USA) in turnovers gained with 31 (17 interceptions/14 fumbles) and has turned the takeaways into 99 points courtesy of 12 touchdowns and five field goals.
As a team, Tulane enters the Rice contest averaging 320.6 yards of total offense per game (137.4 rushing, 183.3 passing) while giving up an average of 357.0 yards on defense (118.7 rushing, 238.3 passing). Senior tailback Orleans Darkwa leads a balanced ground attack with 754 yards and nine touchdowns on 158 carries while junior fullback Rob Kelley is close behind with 424 yards and three scores on 94 totes.
Junior quarterback Nick Montana leads the Green Wave with 1,557 passing yards and 13 touchdowns after completing 139-of-257 tosses in nine starts. Redshirt-freshman Devin Powell who started for an injured Montana in two games this season, has thrown for 458 yards and five scores on 50-of-89 passing.
Senior wide receiver Ryan Grant leads the aerial attack with 68 catches for 881 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior wideout Justyn Shackleford is next with 34 grabs for 356 yards and five scores, while fellow junior receiver Xavier Rush has 182 yards and a touchdown on 16 receptions.
Defensively, Tulane has 27 sacks among 88 tackles for loss while forcing 31 turnovers courtesy of 17 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. Junior strong safety Sam Scofield leads the team with 86 tackles 61 solo, 25 assists. Sophomore free safety Darion Monroe is next with 73 stops (49 solo, 24 assists)
Senior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley paces the unit with 14.5 tackles for loss while sophomore defensive end Royce LaFrance leads the team in sacks with 5.0. Sophomore defensive back Jordan Batiste has a team-best four forced fumbles, sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Doss has seven interceptions, tying for the most in the nation this season, and senior nickelback Derrick Strozier leads all players with 13 pass break-ups.
Rice (8-3, 6-1 C-USA) is in the midst of its best season since 2008 and enters the Tulane game on a two-win streak and has won seven out of its last eight games, including a 37-34 overtime win at UAB last week. Rice is 4-0 at home this season, including 3-0 in C-USA play.
Quarterback Taylor McHargue is the catalyst behind the Owls' offensive attack. He has completed 139 of 265 pass attempts (52.5 pct) for 1,885 yards and 15 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He ranks second on the team in rushing with 130 attempts for 451 yards (3.5 ypc) and five scores.
Running back Charles Ross leads Rice in rushing with 1,063 yards on 168 carries (6.3 ypc) and 12 touchdowns. Ross has six 100+ yard rushing games in 2013. McHargue's favorite receiver has been Jordan Taylor with 46 receptions for 692 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Michael Kutzler leads the team in tackles with 75 (39 solo), while defensive tackle Christian Covington leads the squad in tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (4.0).
"I'll say two things about Rice. They have a plethora of backs. Those backs are good. Big backs, fast backs, scat backs. They are all good. Their offensive line is a very physical bunch. I would say that is the strongest unit on their football team. But, the quarterback is what makes their offense go. He is phenomenal. We have to stop the running game by stopping the quarterback. If we can make this team one-dimensional, I just think we'll have a good shot at winning that game," Johnson said.
Saturday's game marks the 36th all-time meeting between Tulane and Rice and the Owls lead the series, 19-15-1, and also owns a 12-6 advantage over the Wave at Rice Stadium.
Two of the last three meetings between the schools have been high-scoring affairs. Tulane's last win over the Owls was a wild shoot-out at the Superdome, 54-49, in 2010, while the Owls came away with a 49-47 in New Orleans a year ago.
TU's last win at Rice was a 45-31 victory in 2007, while the Owls claimed a 19-7 win in the last meeting between the teams in Houston in 2011.
For tickets to any Green Wave event, please 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.