With Tulane getting an open date after a 31-6 loss to Rutgers, coach Curtis Johnson had to concentrate on the area he least expected to worry about when the season started.
Johnson’s experienced secondary, which featured a trio of three-year starters, contributed mightily to an early 21-0 deficit as the Green Wave fell to 1-4.
On consecutive passes, safety Darion Monroe gave up a 46-yard completion when he was slow to get to the sideline on a streak route, safety Sam Scofield allowed a 25-yard touchdown pass when he could not catch up to a receiver who cut behind him and Lorenzo Doss was beaten to the inside for what turned into a 93-yard touchdown reception.
Scofield, a senior, and Monroe, a junior, were the Green Wave’s two leading tackles in 2013. Doss, another junior, had a team-high seven interceptions.
“It was very frustrating,” Johnson said. “Those plays should have been made by our DBs. A year ago they would have made those going away. We are starting to gamble too much, and it’s hurting us. We have to get back to playing basic football, and that’s what we did this week.”
Tulane practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and will take three days off before starting its regular preparation for an Oct. 11 home game against Connecticut. Doss in particular had a rough outing against Rutgers, undercutting receivers on two touchdown passes.
“We never undercut here,” Johnson said. “We stay over the top of routes all the time. That was a killer. We’re trying to make plays that we really don’t have to make. That’s one thing we worked on. Stay on top of the routes, and we’ll be fine.”
Doss, a preseason All-America candidate, was targeted several times. Although he had an interception in the second half, that play did not make up for his mistakes.
“It’s just the little things,” he said. “It’s right there for us. We’re in position. We just have to make the plays.”
Scofield shook his head recalling the secondary breakdowns.
“I don’t want to say they caught us off guard, but it’s just stuff that doesn’t happen,” he said. “I can’t explain it and it definitely won’t happen again.”
Tanner Lee, who injured his throwing shoulder in the first quarter against Rutgers, threw on the side Wednesday after not throwing at all during Tuesday’s practice. His status for the UConn game remains undetermined.
Nick Montana and Devin Powell handled the all of the 11-on-11 work in practice.
“It will probably be Tuesday before we really make a decision (on Lee),” Johnson said. “He did some stuff (Wednesday) and probably could have done even more than that.”
Montana took the most snaps with the first-team offense, but Powell made the play of the day, hitting wide receiver Xavier Rush in stride for a long touchdown pass down the sideline.
“I’m just going to play the best guy,” Johnson said. “I like what Nick did today. I liked how Devin made a couple of vertical throws. We are going to do what’s best for the team.”
Wild about Veal
Look for freshman wideout Teddy Veal to play a bigger role in the offense the rest of the way. Veal led the Wave with three catches for 40 yards against Rutgers and is third on the team with nine receptions for 119 yards for the year.
“He is playing amazing,” Johnson said. “Look, we’ve got to get him the ball. Teddy’s going to be a star in the not-so-distant future.”
Reserve freshman linebacker Zachery Harris, a Holy Cross graduate, likely is done for the year after suffering a knee injury Saturday.
Harris had a season-high four tackles against Rutgers, including one for a 9-yard loss.
“I’m waiting to hear from the doctors, but it doesn’t look good,” Johnson said. “I can tell you he probably won’t play again (this year).”
If Harris is ruled out, Tulane will apply for a redshirt that might not be granted. He would need a special waiver from the NCAA after playing in five games, two more than the maximum number allowed for redshirts.
Kickoff specialist Trevor Simms returned to practice this week after missing the previous two games with a leg injury. ... Johnson has opened up the competition at place-kicker after freshman Andrew DiRocco missed another field goal and an extra point against Rutgers, dropping to 1 for 5 on field goals. Neither DiRocco nor walk-on Steven Broccoli was accurate in Tuesday’s practice, but Broccoli converted a 42-yarder.