It will be home, home in the Dome when the Tulane Green Wave, 1-2 overall and 0-1 in
Conference USA, take on the SMU Mustangs, who possess a 2-2 overall won-loss record,
at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans Saturday evening. Kick-off is at 6:30 p.m.
The Mustangs, are opening conference play after playing four consecutive non-conference
games to open the season.
Because of Hurricane Katrina, this is the first college game in the Louisiana Superdome since
Dec. 4, 2004
The game will be broadcast on national television by CSTV.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Willis has rolled up a QB rating of 219.11 in the Ponies
last two games, throwing nine touchdown passes and rushing for another in that span. In those
last two games, he has completed 33-of-43 passes (77 %) for 399 yards with only one interception.
Willis' two-game touchdown pass total is a school record in consecutive games, and no Pony
quarterback has thrown for as many as 10 touchdown passes in a season since 1999.
The Mustangs scored a combined 100 points in posting a 45-14 victory over Sam Houston State,
and a 55-9 win Arkansas State last weekend. That scoring outburst represents the most points
scored in consecutive games for SU since 1928.
Through four games, the Pony defense has surrendered an average of 346 yards, 110 yards rushing
and 236 yards passing. However, in the first two games of the season against Texas Tech and
North Texas State, the Pony defense was somewhat less formidable, allowing a combined total
of more than 800 yards total offense in those two games.
SMU, however, has forced 16 turnovers in its first four games and posted 10 sacks to date.
Strong safety Joe Sturdivant leads the Ponies with 27 tackles
Middle linebacker Reggie Carrington and defensive end Juston Rogers are toed for the team lead
in sacks with 3 apiece.
Offensively, the Ponies are led by James Mapps who has rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown on
30 carries, but 132 of those yards came against Arkansas State.
The team's leading receivers are Reynaldo Pellerin with 13 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown;
Emmanuel Sanders with 12 catches for 105 yards; and Bobby Chase with 11 receptions for 231
yards and a touchdown. Big tight end Ryan Kennedy has added 7 catches for 58 yards and four
SMU's offense is also aided by two excellent kick returners in Jesse Henderson, who is poised to
pass SMU legend Jerry Levias on the list of the school's all-time career leaders in kick returns.
Henderson has returned 5 kicks this season for 171 yards. And the 'other' kick returner, Blake Warren, has returned 2 kicks for 53 yards.
Punter Thomas Morstead will be a contender for all-conference honors at the end of the seeason.
Morstead has punted 17 times for an average of 43 yards.
The Green Wave offense, meanwhile, is averaging 99 yards rushing and 171 yards passing.
Junior running back Matt Forté leads the Wave with 215 yards on 52 carries. Quarterback Lester Ricard has completed 36 of 63 passes for 498 yards and five touchdowns.
Forté and receiver Preston Brown have made seven catches each, but 11 different players have
made at least one reception for the Greenies.
Tulane's defense is led by strong safety Joe Goosby with 19 tackles and free safety Louis Thomas
with 14 tackles.
Although Tulane does not release injury information, it is believed that the list of walking wounded includes four starters - offensive lineman Derek Rogers, quarterback Lester Ricard, middle linebacker Jordan Ellis, defensive end Sean Carney, and punter Chris Beckman - and two reserves: outside linebacker Cody Sparks, and cornerback Matthew Harding, both of whom may be lost for the season.
Backup right tackle Travis Olexa played much of the second half in place of Rogers, and backup
left tackle Nick Landry, a true freshman, played much of the second half at left guard in place of starter Aryan Barto.
If Ricard, who has been suffering through shoulder and wrist problems and did not play in the second half of the LSU game last weekend, can't go, then Tulane will call on backup Scott Elliott who was 4-of-13 passing against the Tigers.
Third string quarterback Anthony Scelfo, the son of Tulane offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo,
and the nephew of head coach Chris Scelfo, made his collegiate debut against the Tigers and
was 2-of-4 passing for 27 yards. Scelfo added 41 yards rushing the ball on 6 carries.
If Jordan Ellis cannot return than Evan Lee, James McMurchy, and true freshman Troy Wilson will see playing time at the middle linebacker position. Lee is listed as the starter.
Ellis has missed the last 2 games with a knee injury after making 11 tackles in the opener against Houston.
Billy Harrison has replaced Carney as a starter.
Starting strong safety Joseph Goosby will work at outside linebacker in place of Sparks, who has
been the most impressive of Tulane's freshman class and moved into a role as a contributor, with Dave Skehan moving up to a starting role at strong safety.
When Katrina drove the Tulane football team from New Orleans prior to the beginning of
school and the football season, the Green Wave travelled first to the campus of Jackson State
and then to SMU, where the Mustangs and head football coach Phil Bennett provided the
Green Wave with practice facilities until Tulane was able to make permanent arrangements
class and practice for the fall term. Tonight's game will break the string of 14 consecutive road
games for Tulane.
The Wave defeated the 'Stangs last season by the score of 31-10, and has won the last five games
in the series.