Alonzo Highsmith made careers of dishing out punishment, as an NFL running back and a heavyweight boxer.
This week at Tulane, he might have made an impact with just a few words.
The former Cowboys and Buccaneers tailback now is a Green Bay Packers scout who saw the Green Wave practice this week leading into Saturday’s 45-31 win against Central Florida.
Highsmith had some advice for Tulane defensive end Royce LaFrance.
“Alonzo laid it on him,” said Tulane coach Curtis Johnson, who said Highsmith told LaFrance to “listen to your coaches and do what you’re told.”
Whatever LaFrance heard, he appeared to take to heart.
The senior sparked the Green Wave defense Saturday with a career-high three sacks and four tackles for loss, helping Tulane (2-2, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) get off to a fast start in league play.
“Earlier in the year, he hadn’t been doing some of those things,” Johnson said. “Too many mental mistakes by Royce to be an older player. I thought he came out and he really set the edge and he really played well.”
All three of LaFrance’s sacks were in the third quarter, including two on back-to-back plays on the Knights’ opening drive of the quarter. His third forced a fumble by quarterback Bo Schneider that Tulane’s Corey Redwine recovered at the UCF 10-yard line, setting up a Green Wave touchdown two plays later.
LaFrance’s big day help set up big plays for Tulane, which feasted on a UCF offense that ranked last in the FBS in total offense at 243.8 yards per game, 48.5 fewer than any other team.
The Knights (0-5, 0-1) played Saturday without starting quarterback Justin Holman, who has a fractured right index finger and did not make the trip to New Orleans.
UCF managed 392 passing yards between Schneider and third-string quarterback Tyler Harris, but Tulane’s seven sacks helped hold the Knights to minus-35 rushing yards. The Knights had 141 of their 357 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, when Tulane had inserted its reserves. UCF had five turnovers.
The Green Wave sacked replacement starter Schneider six times and intercepted him three, and LaFrance’s big day helped set up other players’ contributions.
“It rushed the quarterback’s clock,” Tulane safety Darion Monroe said. “His clock sped up. He threw the ball up to (Roderic) Teamer that time. Rae Juan (Marbley) had a pick. Taris Shenall, he had a pick. That speeds up the quarterback’s clock when he knows he got somebody coming off that edge. They couldn’t block (LaFrance) today.”
That hadn’t been the case in Tulane’s first three games.
LaFrance, who came into the season ranked ninth on the Green Wave’s career sack list, entered the game with eight tackles and no sacks this season. His three sacks on Saturday moved him up to third place on the list with 16.5 in his career. Only Kenan Blackmon (22.5) and Floyd Dorsey (21.5), who played together from 1999-02, had more.
“He’s the type of player that can dominate,” Johnson said. “Once he gets into the mode that he wants to do it and he wants to play, he can do anything. He’s capable of doing those things. If he continues to play like he played today, we’ll win a lot of games.”