NEW ORLEANS — Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin doesn’t ordinarily share his intentions with the media. When in front of cameras and recorders, the savvy redshirt senior tends to focus his words on his own faults and shortcomings, rather than speculate.
But mere minutes after Tulane’s gutting 49-47 defeat to Rice, which ended any chances of bowl eligibility, Griffin made his future intentions perfectly clear when the Green Wave (2-7, 2-3 Conference USA) matches up against Memphis (1-8, 1-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Liberty Bowl.
“We are not going to quit,” Griffin said. “The guys that we have are not quitters. They never have been and never will be. We aren’t giving up or anything like that.
“We are going to go out next week and we are going to try to clobber Memphis. That’s what our goal is, and that’s where our mindset is. We aren’t going to go out and just throw our helmets out on the field. We are coming to win.”
Griffin’s recent performance has backed up those words. In the past two weeks, he’s thrown for 942 yards and nine touchdowns and rewritten the Tulane record book. After snapping Patrick Ramsey’s record for passing yards in a game during a 55-45 win over UAB, he topped that number last week in a loss to Rice.
It is undoubtedly the best Griffin has played during his Tulane career, yet various teammates say he’s still unsatisfied.
“Griff doesn’t really care about his numbers, he just wants to win and you could just tell that passing record last week didn’t mean anything to him because we lost,” offensive lineman Adam Skidmore said. “It doesn’t matter if we had to score 100 points to win, you know he would feel responsible for losing the game and that says something about his leadership.”
Griffin also takes responsibility for the Green Wave’s lack of balance. Despite the blazing passing stats in last week’s loss, it failed to open any room on the ground, totaling zero rushing yards.
Under Tulane’s offensive system, Griffin is allowed to choose from a set of plays at the line of scrimmage and has predominantly picked passing plays, with good reason. Tulane ranks last in Conference USA and 119th nationally in rushing yards, averaging 38.1 per game and just 1.6 per carry.
“(The lack of balance) isn’t the offense’s fault, it’s my fault,” Griffin said. “I’ll take the heat for that. I need to check us into more runs. … We’ve also hit on a lot of big plays, and that means our possessions are shorter and it’s harder to establish a run in that kind of situation. We want big plays, but it’s probably making our running game look worse than it is.”
But Griffin can’t take any liability for the Green Wave defense. While Tulane coach Curtis Johnson has consistently pointed to a plethora of injuries and a youthful depth chart, the results are still ugly.
In its past two games, Tulane has allowed 104 points and 1,104 yards against offenses ranked No. 5 and No. 7 in Conference USA. Similar numbers this week would be even more alarming.
Memphis averages the least amount of points in C-USA, tallying 18.7 per game which sinks to just 15 per game against league foes. It also ranks last in the league in yards per game (296), first downs (145) and third-down conversions (32.1 percent).
The Tigers have won just four games in the past three seasons, three against FBS opponents. However, one of those victories was a 33-17 win over the Green Wave last year in the Superdome. So, Tulane’s defense knows it doesn’t have the track record to overlook any offense, considering its recent performance and recent history.
“We know what we’re supposed to do; we just haven’t done it the past few weeks,” freshman safety Darion Monroe said. “I know everyone likes point a few things here and there and say if this were a bit different or if we were a little healthier then maybe this would be better. But it hasn’t been so far.
“But we aren’t going to stop or slow down or make excuses. We just need to play better, and the next game is the next opportunity to do that. It’s just about cutting off the mistakes and playing better when we get our chance to be on the field.”
There’s nothing Griffin can do to help the defense, but teammates understand his desire to leave Tulane on a positive note and the emphasis he’s placed on the last three games of the season.
“I mean, Griff is just playing phenomenal football right now,” receiver Wilson Van Hooser said. “It’s been incredible to play with and watch. We all want to make sure we take care of these last three games, not worrying about bowl eligibility or anything else, and play the right way and win some games.”