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Ryan Jones

When a football team does poorly and fans look for somewhere tolay blame, they often look no further than the man behind center.As the perceived leader of the team, a quarterback will alwaysreceive either too much of the credit for his team’s success or toomuch of the blame for its failure.

Given that the Green Wave’s season is on a decidedly downwardspiral, it’s only natural that fingers would start pointing in thedirection of signal caller Ryan Griffin. Griffin, however, is thelast person on Tulane’s offense who should receive criticism forthe Wave’s lack of success. Blame the wide receivers, the offensiveline or even the running backs, but don’t call for Griffin’sbenching. The redshirt junior is having the best season of hiscareer with the weakest supporting cast of his career, and goinginto Thursday’s home game against Houston, he was having one of top10 most statistically efficient seasons of any quarterback in GreenWave history.

Through 10 games, Griffin was already on track for career highsin completions, attempts, passing yardage, touchdown passes andquarterback rating. All but his anticipated end-season touchdowntotal will put these career highs in the top 10 of Tulane’s recordbooks.

His completion percentage is virtually identical to lastseason’s, and he’s not exactly “dinking and dunking” the ball downthe field. Griffin’s 7.05 yards per pass attempt is 10th-bestall-time for a Green Wave signal caller. Finally, he’s taken careof the football throughout his career, with the eighth-lowestinterception percentage in Tulane history. Remember that Griffinset these marks with his team trailing the majority of his career.Defenses gear up against him expecting the pass.

Most impressively, Griffin has compiled these statistics withoutthe benefit of a true No. 1 wide receiver. Gone are the days ofsuperstars like former teammate Jeremy Williams – or even reliablesafety valves like last year’s Casey Robottom and Cody Sparks. Eventhough the Green Wave had played 10 games – one more than everyother team in Conference USA – it was one of only two C-USA squadsthat did not have a receiver with at least 30 receptions.

Four of Griffin’s top five wide receivers from the 2010 seasontransferred or graduated prior to this season, and he’s clearlybeen hurt by the loss. Griffin doesn’t have any receiver that hecan consistently depend on, so he has been forced to spread theball around. Right now, it appears that the person he is mostcomfortable throwing to isn’t even a wide receiver, but runningback Orleans Darkwa, who led the team with 29 catches going intoThursday night.

Even Darkwa, who many tabbed to have a breakout year, has fallenshort of expectations. He was first hampered by early seasoninjuries and now is averaging nearly a full yard less per carrythan during his freshman campaign.

Griffin would never publicly admit that any of this has played arole in the Green Wave’s struggles. If there’s one thing he pickedup from former head coach Bob Toledo, it’s Toledo’s mediasavvy.

“I’m not going to put the weight on anybody else,” Griffin toldThe Times-Picayune last week before the SMU game. “It’s up to me tofind guys that are open and take care of the ball.”

Griffin will take the heat without a word offered in his owndefense. He’s no All-American, but maybe Tulane fans should be alittle more appreciative of the job Griffin has done thisseason.