The sprained ankles that have bothered Tulane running backs Sherman Badie and Lazedrick Thompson got worse rather than better against Memphis.
Badie, who rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries in the 38-7 loss, was limited in practice Tuesday as the Green Wave prepared for Saturday’s trip to East Carolina.
Thompson, who had a team-best 70 yards on 12 carries, did not practice at all.
Asked if Thompson would have been able to play in a game, Johnson indicated no. He re-aggravated an ankle sprain that sidelined him during Tulane’s Halloween night game against Cincinnati and limited him to one down against Houston a week later.
“It’s a high ankle sprain,” Johnson said. “Whenever you get a high ankle sprain, you just hope.”
Johnson was more optimistic about Badie, saying he would play Saturday.
True freshman Dontrell Hilliard excelled in place of Badie and Thompson against Cincinnati and Houston, but he fumbled twice against Memphis. Those mistakes hurt the Green Wave more than his 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter helped.
“He’s probably doing too much as a true freshman,” Johnson said. “With Sherman being out, with Lazedrick being out, there’s a little bit too much on his plate, but it’s good to have a learning experience.”
The injury bug also bit true freshman tight end Charles Jones, who left the Memphis game with a shoulder injury. Jones did not practice Tuesday, but Johnson said he probably would play Saturday.
Jones has started the last four games and has 16 catches with three touchdowns.
Tulane’s defense limited Memphis to 334 yards, nearly 100 yards below its average, but cornerback Lorenzo Doss regretted a missed opportunity.
With the Wave trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Doss stepped in front of a pass in Tulane territory and dropped the ball. He had nothing but open turf ahead of him near the Memphis sideline.
“I jumped the route, and when the quarterback released it, I just knew I had it,” Doss said. “That’s something I can’t miss in the future. I have to make that play. It just bounced off my hands.”
Doss, a junior, entered the season with 12 career interceptions but had added just two to that total. His brother, former Southern wide receiver Lee Doss, was in the stands and gave him some grief.
“I talked to him after the game,” Lorenzo Doss said. “He said he knew it was a pick-six and he jumped up out of the stands.”
Playing for pride
With a losing season assured, Tulane will have to guard against letting down in its final two games against East Carolina on Saturday and Temple on Dec. 7.
Johnson pointed to the importance of finishing strong for recruiting. It won’t be easy at East Carolina (6-3), which has lost two in a row but is an 18-point favorite after being ranked in the top 25 of every poll earlier this month.
“We had a bunch of (recruits) at the game and afterwards, they were like ‘Man, you guys played hard,’ ” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to say, ‘Well these guys won three games,’ or, ‘These guys won five games.’ Five games is promising with a bunch of young kids playing.”
With Nicholls State about to hire Louisiana-Lafayette assistant Tim Rebowe as its new coach according to Riverparishfootball.com, Tulane won’t lose co-defensive coordinator Lionel Washington, who interviewed for the position in late October.
Washington, a former Tulane player, spent 12 years as a secondary coach in the NFL before joining Johnson’s staff. His nickname is “Speedy.”
“Speedy is one of the most genius coaches I know,” senior defensive end Tyler Gilbert said. “I like the way he teaches us, the way he deals with the team, everything.”