Tulane football looks to turn season around against Rutgers

Dara Tucker, Contributing Reporter

Tulane football (1-3, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) looks to take its season back on track against Rutgers (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) 11 a.m. Saturday in Piscataway, New Jersey, after losing 47-13 against Duke Saturday. The game will be televised live on ESPNews.

Rutgers established its might outside the Big Ten, proven by wins in all three of its non-conference games. The Scarlet Knights finished undefeated in non-conference play for the first time since 2009 with a victory Saturday against Navy.

Rutgers’ dominant rushing attack has led its non-conference play domination. Senior running back Paul James, Rutgers’ leading rusher, ran for 363 yards and 5 touchdowns on just 63 carries this season before tearing his ACL in a 31-24 win against Navy. James will be out the rest of the season.

James’ replacement, sophomore Justin Goodwin filled in capably, amassing 104 yards on the ground and rushing for 1 touchdown against the Navy defense.

Senior quarterback Gary Nova, who has played well despite an under-producing receiving corps, leads the Rutgers offense and completed 57 of 90 passes for 906 yards and 6 touchdowns. Nova’s 63.3 percent completion percentage this season is the highest of his career.

“[Rutgers is] going to run it and run it, and [only] throw it when they have to,” Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. “Defensively, we got to stop the run. If we stop the run, we’ll have a chance.”

The Tulane defense came up short against Duke, surrendering 437 yards to the Blue Devil offense. The Wave’s defense allowed 256 rushing yards and was plagued by 13 penalties.

“[The penalties] need to stop,” Johnson said. “We have four games under our belt. [We need to] knuckle down.”

Tulane will again depend on having a consistent offensive attack to have a chance at beating Rutgers. Redshirt sophomore running back Lazedrick Thompson rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown against Duke, providing a much-needed spark to the offense.

“[Thompson] is one of the most encouraging [players] that we have,” Johnson said. “I think we can run the ball well against some teams.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee struggled again with his consistency. While Lee took control of the offense at times and helped to develop offensive drives, he threw 3 interceptions.

Johnson said he remains confident, however, that Lee is the best option for the Wave under center.

“[Lee is] moving the team pretty well,” Johnson said. “When he gets down in the red zone and the field shrinks, he tends to anticipate too much. He’ll get through it. It’s just frustrating right now because we’re playing some good teams.” 

While Tulane’s starters may be inexperienced compared to many of its opponents’, Johnson said that the key to victory this weekend will be to keep mistakes to a minimum.

“We have some kids now that are just feeling their way through their first season of college football,” Johnson said. “We have another team this week that’s a veteran team. We just have to play and not make mistakes.”