NEW ORLEANS - There are plenty of ways used to describe Tulane’s football season.

The terms tumultuous, upheaval, combative, disappointing, disjointed, distracting and uncompetitive have been tossed around for months on television, radio and print media when trying to describe what 2011 has looked like for the Green Wave program.

A 2-9 record (1-6 in Conference USA), combined with the midseason resignation of coach Bob Toledo, dumped cold water on a program aspiring to reach its first bowl game since 2002.

“It’s been a tough year and there’s been a lot of changes,”?sophomore running back Orleans Darkwa said.

“But overall, I think we’ve done a good job of sticking together and being a team through a lot of adversity and a lot stuff going on around the program.”

The current buzz surrounds the ongoing coaching search, with news of interviews and contracts largely overshadowing interim coach Mark Hutson’s brief tenure, including the Wave’s latest opportunity to snap its seven-game losing streak at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Rice.

With so much uncertainty around not only the future of Tulane’s football program, but also the employment of the Wave’s current coaching staff, merely fighting off distraction has become a monumental challenge.

As coaches shuffled into new roles to fill the void left behind by Toledo, some of the comfort built in the offseason practices faded away, and new realities began to set in.

“It’s definitely been different, a lot different,” junior quarterback Ryan Griffin said. “It wasn’t a different offense, but there was a bit of a different philosophy. So you have to adjust your mental mindset. You know, you work in the spring and summer and even August in camp with one philosophy, and you are fully adjusted for that. Then that changes.

“It’s bizarre, because I’ve been here for so long and I’ve seen people in certain roles. Then to have them jump into different ones is weird. It was pretty seamless overall though, and I thought they’ve done a great job.”

Yet the results haven’t changed. Tulane is 0-4 under Hutson and has been outs?cored 185-71, never holding an opponent to less than 33 points while failing to produce more than 24.

Now, with just two weeks remaing and road tilts against the Owls (3-7, 2-6) and Hawaii, Hutson and several players said they are using this as an opportunity to get away from the specter of speculation and possibly wring some positives from the end of a troubled season.

“These last two weeks, we are approaching it as professionals,” Hutson said. “The coaches all have a contract, and we all signed on the contract. We got into the game to make a difference in young people’s lives. I know that sounds different, but it’s why we chose this profession.”

“So these next two weeks, the past six weeks and even the past five years, we have tried to do that and continue to do that in an effort to make a difference in their life. Whether we are here or whether we all move on to do another program, we will do that because that’s what we do.”

Thursday’s 73-17 loss to Houston in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in many ways magnified the series of deficiencies that has prevented Tulane from attaining success for nearly a decade.

Houston returned two punts for touchdowns and blew by Green Wave tacklers all night en route to eight offensive touchdowns and 735 total yards. The Cougars picked apart defenders in the middle of the field and outran them to the edges, simply overwhelming the Wave with its athleticism and precision.

Meanwhile, Tulane’s offense couldn’t produce nearly enough to keep up, even though it maintained possession for 35 minutes. An interception in the end zone, dropped passes and inconsistent play from the offensive line kept drives from being finished and points off the scoreboard.

“That’s just the way things have gone,” sophomore running back Orleans Darkwa said.

As coaches shuffled into new roles to fill the void left behind by Toledo, some of the comfort built in the offseason practices faded away, and new realities began to set in.

Running backs coach Greg Davis took over as offensive coordinator and assumed playcalling duties from Toledo. Tight ends coach Doug Lichtenberger replaced Hutson as offensive line coach after Hutson was promoted. First-year special teams coordinator John Hendricks became the assistant head coach.