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Madeline Sell

Despite Tulane’s 24-12 loss against Rutgers on Saturday night, the Green Wave’s young defense showed signs of improvement, even in the absence of linebacker Trent Mackey, the preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.

Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson added five true freshmen to the starting lineup, helping to fill the gaping hole that Mackey, who was suspended from the team following his arrest on armed robbery charges, left behind.

Three of the roster’s five cornerbacks are freshmen, including Darion Monroe, Jordan Batiste and Lorenzo Doss.

“We played a bunch of freshman on secondary,” Johnson said. “One time, I looked out there, and it was three quarters freshmen. We’ve just got to keep working with those young guys.”

Together the freshmen recorded nine total tackles, and helped stifle the Rutgers’ offense, holding the Scarlet Knights to two offensive touchdowns

But the freshmen could not have held the Knights without the help of linebacker Zach Davis, who collected a career-high eight tackles and stepped in to fill the void left by Mackey.

“I thought Zach Davis made a couple of good plays,” Johnson said. “He played with a lot of emotion, and he played with a lot of energy. I think [senior linebacker Darryl] Farley was an assistant to him, but I think everything went through Zach. I thought the linebackers played well.”

Leading with nine tackles, walk-on senior safety Devon Walker made his presence known in the secondary.

“He was all over the field,” Johnson said. “He was one of the guys that you say, ‘Wow, that was one of the position battles all year that we just didn’t know.'”

Johnson said Tulane, however, needs to further limit penalties. The Green Wave defense committed five penalties that cost the team at least 15 yards.

“I think the worst thing about tonight was the penalties,” Johnson said. “Just too many penalties: 11 [penalties] for 120 [yards]. That’s a football field worth of penalties. That’s two touchdowns that we just gave away.”

Despite that criticism, Johnson said he was happy with the defense’s overall performance against Rutgers.

“I feel great about the defense if we can stop the penalties,” Johnson said. “There were a couple of times when we missed the tackle, like on a long touchdown, but I felt that those guys came to play. We will get better on defense.”

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