Recent history bodes poorly for Tulane (1-2) as it travels to Durham, North Carolina, for Saturday’s game against Duke (3-0).
The Green Wave has not won a game outside of Louisiana in three years, dating to a 49-10 trouncing of UAB on Sept. 17, 2011. Eight of its 15 losses since then fall on coach Curtis Johnson’s ledger, including the excruciating 38-31 double-overtime, season-opening defeat at Tulsa.
The last time the Wave played a team from the ACC, it lost to Syracuse 52-17 on Sept. 21 a year ago.
“You have to play better on the road when you aspire to be one of these top programs,” Johnson said. “That’s the one thing you have to do — you have to go on the road and get some victories. Hopefully some time this year we’ll begin to do that.”
When Johnson was an assistant at the University of Miami from 1996 to 2005, the Hurricanes almost always performed well on the road. At this point, though, he is not comfortable drawing on that experience with his players.
“I try not to,” he said. “I’ve given some instances of it, but I don’t know if this team is ready to hear about all those great players and all those great games.”
Kicking situation unsettled
It appears the identity of Tulane’s kickoff specialist and place-kicker will be a game-time decision.
After practice Thursday, Johnson said he still was not certain who would handle either role. Freshman Andrew DiRocco has missed three field goals from inside 35 yards. Walk-on Trevor Simms, who has booted five of 10 kickoffs for touchbacks since joining the team after the season opener, injured a leg while making a tackle against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.
DiRocco and walk-on Steven Broccoli, who has not attempted a kick in college, are listed as co-No. 1s on the depth chart at placekicker. Simms, another option at placekicker, has not been cleared to play against Duke.
“We still don’t know,” Johnson said. “We’re still trying to figure it all out. We have a couple of options, and we’re probably going to exercise probably all of them. I’m trying to figure out where we are with Simms, and then we’ll figure out what we do next.”
Redshirt for Diaz
Johnson said freshman center Junior Diaz, a Miami native who enrolled in January and participated in spring drills, would be redshirted after practicing with the second-team offensive line in fall camp.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Godfrey has replaced Diaz as the top backup to starting center Nathan Shienle.
“(Diaz) is a young kid,” Johnson said. “We were up in the air in what we were doing, but I just think he needs another year (of seasoning).”
Johnson added freshman linebacker Robert Kennedy from Belle Chasse would be redshirted, too.
Duke, which is ranked No. 27 by the Associated Press and No. 26 by the coaches, has not been challenged in its first three games. Elon, Troy and Kansas are a combined 1-6, with the sole victory Kansas’ against Southeast Missouri 34-28.
Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe labeled Tulane easily the toughest opponent to this point.
“They’re a team that runs around really well on both sides of the ball,” he said. “Defensively, they are extremely active and they play a lot of people and play with a lot of energy. They have balance as a team that can throw it and run it. They are going to force you to play well in all aspects.”
At the end of Thursday’s practice, offensive lineman Sean Donnelly stood up while the rest of the team sang “Happy Birthday” to him. He turned 23. … After a hot practice on Tuesday morning, the weather was more mild on Thursday, which Johnson said was ideal preparation for Saturday when the expected high will be 82 degrees.