November 16, 2002
If the doctor could prescribe something for the Tulane football squad (6-4 overall, 3-3 C-USA) to get them over a disappointing loss to TCU and to prepare them for a big showdown with Southern Miss, it would be the Black Knights of Army.
The Black Knights are the worst team in Division I- A football and the only squad of 117 that has yet to register a single win on the season (0-9, 0-6 C-USA). Army's team is pitiful. The Knights lose week after week. Only one of its losses has been by less than nine points, and it has only led once after the first quarter of a game. The Black Knights even lost their opener to I-AA Holy Cross, which is 4-6 in I-AA football and has no athletic scholarships or NFL prospects.
To make the trip to New Orleans even worse, the team hasn't won a road game in 19 attempts, dating back to 1998. Just as the present trends dont favor the Knights this week, the history books cast a shadow on their chances too. Army is just 1-6 in games played in domes and winless in three chances in the Louisiana Superdome. Plus, they've never won a game in the state of Louisiana in six tries.
Their best showing was a 0-0 tie with Tulane in 1953, when the Wave played on-campus in the fresh air of Tulane Stadium. But as all good gamblers know, football games are not played on paper. They are played on astroturf. This week's match-up between Army and Tulane comes down to the effectiveness of each team's respective offenses.
Army quarterback Reggie Nevels comes off a career-high 120 passing yards in last week's loss to Air Force, in which the Knights scored 30 points. On the other hand, Wave quarterback J.P. Losman comes off a disappointing showing last week against TCU, where he completed just eight of 29 passes for 49 yards and had an interception before being replaced by Derrick Joseph in the third quarter. Losman may not even play this week because of sore ribs he aggravated during the TCU game.
"If J.P. doesn't practice this week, he doesn't play; he doesn't start. Derrick will start. If he practices, and has a good week of practice, J.P. starts," Head Coach Chris Scelfo said. The Army offense welcomed Nevels back to the lineup last week after hamstring injuries kept him on the sideline for most of the season. The Knights used six other quarterbacks in his absence due to more injuries and sloppy play. Armys 191.4 passing yards per game ranks seventh in the conference, and Nevels needs to improve on that number if they have any chance of beating Tulane.
"[Nevels] is a very elusive quarterback. He is a very good runner and I expect them to run some option, but he boots and play-action passes you. We have to be very disciplined on defense and we've got to contain their offense," Scelfo said. While only scoring 23.8 points per game, the Knights rank fifth among the conference in rushing yards per contest at 128.7.
Led by Carlton Jones 423 yards and four touchdowns and Josh Holdens 419 yards and eight touchdowns on the season, the running attack will make or break Armys unbalanced offensive force. In last weeks loss to Air Force, Holden ran 10 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns, while Jones had 13 carries for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
Nonetheless, Tulane controls its own destiny this week. The Wave is a better team, from its coaching to its physical ability and awareness on the field. If the team comes to play well on Saturday, a lopsided victory should secure its first bowl bid since 1998. The big question is which offensive line will come to play this week for Tulane. If its the line that allowed nine sacks and a blocked punt last week in Fort Worth, the Wave will have to fight for this win. But if the line protects Losman and creates holes for running back Mewelde Moore, it will be a whole different story.
Moore comes in as the holder of 17 Tulane and four C-USA records. After breaking the Tulane career rushing mark in the Navy game, he went on to claim the all-time Wave all-purpose yards title in the contest at TCU last week. He now has 831 rushing yards on the season to rank fourth in the conference. Due to a Southern Miss loss on Thursday night to Louisville, Tulane can achieve second place in conference. if the team wins out they will be eligible for a post-season bowl game.
The team will face Army, the worst team in the country, and Southern Miss in two weeks. The Wave takes on Army on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Louisiana Superdome. Busses will transport students from the front of the University Center beginning at 12 p.m. and will bring them back after halftime.
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