Addressing his players at the end of Thursday’s final practice in preparation for South Florida, Tulane football coach Willie Fritz emphasized the huge opportunity ahead of them.
In front of a national television audience on ESPN2, the Green Wave will get a chance to scratch a 33-year itch covering 41 games.
The last time Tulane (3-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) beat a ranked opponent was Oct. 6, 1984, when it won 27-23 at No. 19 Vanderbilt. South Florida (6-0, 3-0), which is No. 13 in the coaches’ poll and No. 16 in the Associated Press poll, would be the Wave’s highest-ranked victim since No. 9 Florida State in 1983 at the Superdome.
“It's a great challenge,” Fritz said. “They are very talented and very well-coached. That's what you want. That's why you get into athletics. It's an opportunity to compete. It will be fun.”
The oddsmakers give Tulane as good a chance to pull the upset as any time in recent memory. The Wave is an 12-point underdog. The only comparable line against a ranked team in the last 10 years was in 2008 against No. 14 East Carolina, when the Wave — also a 12-point underdog that time — gave up a touchdown with 1:41 left to lose 28-24 at the Superdome.
“We’re amped up about the game,” running back Dontrell Hilliard said. “That’s why we come to college to play in big games like this.”
Pregame festivities on campus will include prizes, entertainment and fireworks. Fans can purchase buy-one, get-one free tickets at TulaneTix.com, by calling 504-861-WAVE (9283) or by going to the Tulane ticket office at the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive next to Yulman Stadium.
At least one forecaster likes Tulane. Associated Press national college football writer Ralph Russo predicted a 28-27 upset in his weekly picks column.
Freshman defensive end Cameron Sample, set to make his first start in place of the injured Eldrick Washington, received ringing endorsements from Fritz and defensive coordinator Jack Curtis.
Sample, a Snellville, Georgia, product who turned 18 after playing in the season opener against Grambling, has been mature beyond his years.
“He's been rolling in there like a starter the last few weeks anyway,” Fritz said. “He's a really good player, very smart, great character, great student. He'll do a great job.”
Sample had six tackles against Army and five against Florida International.
“He's going to be a dominant force in this league one day, and he's already played way above what a freshman should be playing,” Curtis said. “We're extremely happy. He's excited about getting his first start.”
The way Sample became a starter is unfortunate. Washington, a redshirt senior who had been a career backup until this season, tore his ACL in Tulane’s 23-10 loss at FIU.
“He (Washington) is one of my favorites because he keeps his mouth shut and just works as hard as all get-out,” Fritz said. “He has a positive attitude.”
Junior Peter Woullard, who did not play against FIU but started four games a year ago, will back up Sample. True freshman Patrick Johnson and redshirt freshman De’Andre Williams will get snaps, too.
“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a little bit of depth,” Fritz said.
Tale of the tape
The official measurements are in for the new Angry Wave logo placed on top of the Yulman Stadium scoreboard on Tuesday.
Made of fiberglass and steel and weighing 3,353 pounds, the emblem has a width of six feet, seven inches, a height of 14 feet, seven inches and a length of 20 feet, nine inches.
It was designed by Barry Kern, the president and CEO of Kern Studios, the premium builder of parade floats.
Former Tulane quarterback Shaun King, who guided the Green Wave to its perfect 12-0 season in 1998, is in his second year as a South Florida coach. He works with the running backs a year after tutoring the quarterbacks and is the only holdover under coach Charlie Strong from previous coach Willie Taggart’s staff. … Graham Jarrett is the former Jesuit and current Rummel assistant whom Tulane offensive line coach Alex Atkins credited with Corey Dublin's readiness for college. An Advocate feature last Saturday had the wrong name.