Tulane football searches for winning start to 2015 season

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Redshirt junior receiver Devon Breaux runs through a tackle in Tulane football practice on Aug. 17. The Wave starts the season Thursday against Duke at Yulman Stadium. 

Will Potts, Staff Reporter

The Tulane Green Wave looks to shrug off last year’s lackluster start to the Yulman Stadium era as it takes on the Duke Blue Devils Thursday. Coming off of a 3-9 (2-6 American Athletic Conference) season record, the team is eager to establish itself as a contender in the AAC with a strong entrance to the 2015 season.

Standing in its way is the Blue Devils, who finished 9-4 (5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the powerhouse ACC. Last season Duke had a commanding 47-13 victory over the Green Wave in Durham, North Carolina’s Wallace Wade Stadium on Sept. 20, 2014. In four total matchups, the sides are even at two wins a piece.

Thursday night’s game will be a test of strengths. Duke’s potent rushing attack, averaging 181.8 yards in 2014, faces Tulane’s formidable rushing defense, which allowed just 157.9 yards per game. Despite a relatively young team, 64 underclassmen in a 99-man roster, the Green Wave has 13 of its top 14 linemen and linebackers returning. 

The veteran Tulane front will be put to task against Duke’s offensive line. Senior defensive end Royce LaFrance, whose 13.5 career sacks rank him ninth in the Tulane record books, will go toe-to-toe with an offensive line core that allowed the fewest sacks per pass attempt in the ACC.  

On the offensive side of the ball, redshirt Sophomore Quarterback Tanner Lee will retain the starting job heading into this season. Lee, though struggling down the stretch in his first year of play, threw 185-for-336 (.551) and set Tulane freshmen records in almost all passing categories, including total completions and passing touchdowns.

Now with 10 starts under his belt and a matured confidence in the pocket, Lee has a chance to reverse the turnover trend that plagued him in the final games of last season as he finished with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Relieving Lee of sole production responsibility, the Wave backfield will once again feature the dual-threat attack of redshirt sophomore and redshirt junior Sherman Badie and Lazedrick Thompson, who combined for 1,221 of Tulane’s 1,746 total rushing yards on the season.

For the Blue Devils, the graduation of all-ACC signal caller Anthony Boone means the Thursday opener will be the first collegiate start for redshirt junior Thomas Sirk.

While unfamiliar with the pressures of starting, Sirk was the only active quarterback in the nation with 10 or more pass completions as a reserve in 2014.

Tulane’s season opener on Thursday will be broadcasted live by the CBS Sports Network at 8:30 p.m.