There’s nothing like a fresh start, and that’s exactly what Tulane and Southeastern Louisiana University are looking for heading into Saturday’s season opener in the Superdome.
Southeastern wants to put last season’s 2-9 campaign in the rearview mirror, while the Green Wave is aiming to build on a 4-8 record from last season.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game in the Superdome has been moved up to 12:30 p.m. because of wind and rain expected from Tropical Storm Lee.
Additionally, the SLU tailgate caravan, which was scheduled to leave for New Orleans at 11 a.m., has been canceled.
Tulane and Southeastern Louisiana have met three times since SLU reinstated football in 2003, with the Green Wave taking all of those games by a total of 21 points, including a 27-21 win last season.
“They’ve given us everything we can handle,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said of the Lions. “We have to show up and be ready to play. It’s the first game of the season, it’s at home, and obviously we need to get off to a good start.”
“It is a big ball game, and not only because it’s Tulane, but it’s our opener for 2011 coming out of 2010 with such a sour taste in our mouth and listening to all the junk we’ve had to listen to since November, it will be nice to play again for Coach Lucas,” SLU coach Mike Lucas said.
Tulane, which is transitioning to what Toledo calls a “a pro-spread offense” returns quarterback Ryan Griffin and running back Orleans Darkwa, who rushed for 925 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Darkwa, however, has “a ligament problem in his big toe,” Toledo said.
Toledo said Darkwa would play, but Albert Williams is expected to start, with former University High standout Jamar Thomas expected to see playing time.
Southeastern, meanwhile, returns the receiving trio of Simmie Yarborough, Brandon Collins and Kory Theodore, running back Zeke Jones and quarterback Brian Young.
Young tops the Lions’ depth chart at quarterback, but Lucas said Ole Miss transfer Nathan Stanley will also play.
“How mistake-free can we play at the quarterback position is going to be tell-tale,” Lucas said. “We’ve got to take better care of the football. When you look at our game down there from last year, we didn’t take care of the football. We turned it over in critical situations.”
Lucas said another priority for the Lion offense is keeping Green Wave defensive ends Dezman Moses and Austen Jacks in check.
“I know they’re real proud of their defensive ends and feel like they can be dominating,” Lucas said. “And you look at them on film from last year, they can. We’ve got to try to control their defensive ends.”
SLU, meanwhile, brings back Devin Boutwell, former Catholic standout Devan Walker and former Glen Oaks standout Tramaine Lucas on the defensive line.
But the Lions will feature a revamped linebacking corps featuring Avery Crooks, Ricky Irvin and Tay Alford.
The SLU secondary will also have a new look with former Hammond standout Robert Alford returning from an injury and Memphis transfer Todd Washington at the corners and Marice Sutton and Kevin Roberts at the safeties.
Mike Lucas said SLU is looking forward to the challenge.
“Would you like to have an easier opener, where you can kind of ease into things and check things out?? Yeah,” he said. “But that’s not what we’ve got. We’ve got to go down there and play a Conference USA opponent. I don’t think we’re going to sneak up on anybody as close as that game was last year. I think their players are going to realize that we’ve got some good folks and that they’ve got to get up and play well.”