Ponder slated to start under center for second-straight game; Wave look to turn corner against the Cajuns
NEW ORLEANS – The Tulane University football team will look to turn the corner on Saturday, Oct. 6, when the Green Wave head to Acadiana to take on Louisiana-Lafayette at Cajun Field. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m., and the contest will be broadcast worldwide on the Internet on ESPN3 and televised locally on Cox 4.
Senior D.J. Ponder is slated to start his second straight game at quarterback and first-year Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson added that he expects junior running back Orleans Darkwa to play a larger role this weekend after missing the first three games of 2012 with an ankle injury and making his season debut last week against ULM. With injuries sidelining both senior Ryan Griffin and freshman Devin Powell, Ponder made his first career start against the Warhawks. Darkwa, meanwhile, carried the ball seven times in limited action last Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Going into that game, nobody really knew where he was,” Johnson said of Darkwa going into the ULM contest. “I thought he was game-ready after watching him on film. We’ll up his play this week. Ponder is limping around pretty good, and Griff is on a pitch count still. It’ll probably be Ponder.
“It’s been going pretty good. I thought we had another strong practice today. It was enthusiastic. They’re playing well. We need to execute a little better, but we’re starting to execute pretty well.”
In addition to the Internet and television broadcasts, the Tulane/UL-Lafayette contest will also be carried on the flagship station of Green Wave athletics, WIST AM 690, and can also be heard via the web at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to paid members of the All-Access Pass. Live stats are also available on the Internet courtesy of GameTracker, and fans will once again have a chance to insert their opinion and ask questions interactively through “Tulane Live.”
The Green Wave head to Lafayette 0-4 on the season and looking to bounce back from a 63-10 loss to ULM. As a team, Tulane is averaging 187.2 yards of total offense per game (5.0 rushing, 188.2 passing) while giving up an average of 490.8 (260.2 rushing, 230.5 passing).
In his lone appearance of the season to date, Ponder completed 21-of-44 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Griffin still leads the team with 314 yards on 41-of-61 passing while Powell is 30-of-57 for 255 yards, and the duo share the team lead with Ponder with one touchdown strike each.
Junior wide receiver Ryan Grant is one of four Tulane players with 10-plus receptions in the first month of the season, and leads the squad with 23 catches for 324 yards (14.1 avg.) and two touchdowns. Sophomore Justyn Shackleford is second on the team with 14 grabs for 138 yards (9.9 avg.) while junior running back Derrick Strozier and sophomore running back Rob Kelley follow with 11 receptions apiece for 60 and 59 yards, respectively. Kelley paces the Green Wave ground game with 88 yards on 34 carries (2.6 avg.).
Defensively, the Green Wave have four sacks among 21 tackles for loss, nine pass break-ups and seven forced turnovers with four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
Junior linebacker Zach Davis leads the way with 32 tackles (23 solo, 9 assists) and a pair of sacks among 3.0 tackles for loss while sharing the team lead in interceptions with senior cornerback Ryan Travis and freshman corner Lorenzo Doss with one interception. Rookie free safety Darion Monroe is second on the team with 26 stops (20 solo, 6 assists) and Travis headlines the secondary with four pass break-ups. Senior defensive end Austen Jacks paces the squad with 4.0 tackles for loss and sophomore defensive tackle has two of the team’s six forced fumbles.
“Right now, the biggest concern is the quarterback position,” Johnson said of his team. “D.J. Ponder was a little banged up from last week, but he’s looked pretty good. I liked the way he’s practicing. I like the way the team has practiced. Again, we’re practicing well, but we didn’t play very well this past week.
“I thought (the ULM game) was the first time that we really didn’t. Sooner or later, it was going to come where the defense didn’t play as well as it should have, and neither did the offense. But it’ll come to where we’ll be playing well. It’s taking a little longer than I expected. I’m impatient, but I’m managing to keep my patience.”
Louisiana-Lafayette enters the weekend 3-1 on the year and coming off a 48-20 win over Florida International last weekend at Cajun Field. As a team, the Ragin’ Cajuns are averaging 403.0 yards of total offense per game (164.5 rushing, 238.5 passing) while giving up an average of 445.8 (120.8 rushing, 325.0 passing).
Terrance Broadway, who is expected to replace starter Blaine Gautier under center on Saturday, comes into the Tulane game with 462 yards and two touchdowns on 36-of-55 passing while adding 99 rushing yards and two scores on 19 carries. Saturday’s game will mark the second time Broadway will line up under center against the Green Wave as he started as a member of the Houston Cougars back on Sept. 25, 2010. That day, Broadway finished 19-of-28 for 174 yards and an interception while running 11 times for 21 yards in leading Houston to a 42-23 win at Cougar Field.
Alonzo Harris leads the UL-Lafayette rushing attack with 264 yards to go with a pair of touchdowns on 51 carries. Effrem Reed is second on the squad with 179 yards and two scores on 33 totes, and Gautier leads the way with three rushing touchdowns.
Harry Peoples is one of three Cajuns’ wideouts to haul in at least 10 passes and tally at least 160 yards through the air and leads the team with 18 receptions for 249 yards while sharing the touchdown catch title along with Jacob Maxwell at two apiece.
On defense, UL-Lafayette has eight sacks among 29 tackles for loss, broke up 14 passes and forced 10 turnovers with five interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
Justin Anderson leads the Cajuns with 34 tackles (27 solo, 7 assists), followed by Jermario Moten with 28 (23 solo, 5 assists), while Rodney Gillis (14 solo, 6 assists) and Qyen Griffin (12 solo, 8 assists) are next with 20 each. Justin Hamilton headlines the UL-Lafayette unit with 4.0 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles, Cordian hagans has a team-best 2.5 sacks, and Anderson leads the way with a trio of pass break-ups. Moten and Gillis, meanwhile, share team-high interception honors with two each.
“I think they’re a good team, and a very similar team to ULM,” Johnson said of UL-Lafayette. “I think this team’s defensive front is pretty good. They play well. Their offensive line plays well. Their quarterback is out, but that won’t matter because those running backs are good players. The linebackers are good. They’re good in the secondary.
“They’ve got a good football team. We understand what (Broadway) does and how dynamic he is. We’ve got to do some things to try and corral him a little bit.”
Saturday’s game marks the 26th time the two teams have met on the gridiron and Tulane holds a commanding 21-4 lead in the all-time series, including wins in the last four outings. The Green Wave are 2-0 in Lafayette, including a 38-37 win in the last head-to-head meeting on Oct. 7, 2000. The last time the Cajuns defeated Tulane was back on Oct. 28, 1995, when UL-Lafayette came away with a 32-28 decision in the Superdome.
Following the game in Lafayette, Tulane returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 13, when they play host to Conference USA foe SMU at noon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Tickets to that game and future Green Wave events are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
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