Green Wave football faces toughest challenge yet against Duke

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Dara Tucker, Contributing Reporter

Tulane football (1-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) looks to maintain its momentum following its 35-20 victory against Southeastern Louisiana Sept. 13 when it faces Duke (3-0) 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. The game will be televised on the Atlantic Coast Conference Regional Sports Network and streamed online on ESPN3.

Duke is off to its first 3-0 start in 20 years. It continues to build upon its successful 2013-14 season where it clinched the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title and racked up 10 wins to finish the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

“[Duke will] challenge us,” Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. “They have a lot of weapons, but we just need to play our game and continue to improve on the backend.”

Duke’s offense has averaged 42.3 points per game. Its running game, led by freshman running back Shaun Wilson, has spearheaded the nation’s No. 25 ranked offense. Wilson rushed for 245 yards in Duke’s 41-3 rout over Kansas Saturday, breaking a team record. 

Duke redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Boone, who has attempted 107 consecutive passes without an interception to start the season, has also been a major part of the offense. Boone has completed 68 of his 107 pass attempts for 695 yards and 7 touchdowns.

“[Duke’s] quarterback is mobile and they have a big, physical offensive line,” Johnson said. “[Duke has] really good playmakers and I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on our corners this week.” 

Tulane will look to build on last week’s strong defensive showing, which led to its first victory of the year and first win at Yulman Stadium. Sophomore linebacker Nico Marley, who tallied five tackles, a sack and an interception, helped the Green Wave force 3 turnovers and shut down the Southeastern passing and rushing attack. The Louisiana Sports Writer Association named Marley Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.

“[Marley] comes to work every day and is fearless,” Johnson said. “He just does so much for our defense. If you ask me who the vocal leader on our team is, I would say Nico Marley.”

On the offensive side of the football, redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee and the Green Wave offense will look to continue improving and score points. Lee threw 3 touchdown passes to three different receivers and redshirt freshman running back Sherman Badie rushed for 80 yards and 1 touchdown against Southeastern.

Johnson said that he was pleased with his team’s offensive play and development.

“It’s great to get a win against a quality opponent [like Southeastern],” Johnson said. “I thought we played a very good game, a very capable game against a very good opponent.”

Duke’s defense, however, has allowed only 11 points per game this season. For Tulane, improvement is crucial for a victory this week.

“[Duke’s] defenses is better and [Lee] hasn’t seen enough defenses,” Johnson said. “[Duke is] not going to run the same defense you just burned them on.”

While Duke may be Tulane’s toughest test yet, Johnson said he is confident in his team’s ability.

“I think these guys will be ready for the challenge,” Johnson said.