For the first time in his head-coaching career, Tulane coach Curtis Johnson was beaten as a favorite when the Green Wave were dropped by South Alabama 41-39 on Saturday. After the game, players admitted to not being entirely focused at kickoff and insisted they will be this week.
However, this time the competition is more stiff, and the game is on the road against a Conference USA opponent. If Tulane gets blown away early, the judgment on Johnson could be harsh.
Louisiana Tech’s running game has been productive this season, rushing for 416 yards, including a 273-yard effort in last week’s 27-14 win over Lamar. However, Bulldogs’ coach Skip Holtz said starting running back Kenneth Dixon (who scored 28 touchdowns last season) is questionable for the game because of a knee injury suffered last week. Backup Tevin King performed admirably in his absence, rushing for 182 yards on 20 carries and will carry the load if Dixon is sidelined.
Tulane signed LSU graduate transfer Chris Davenport for games like this. The 6-foot-4, 334-pound defensive tackle was built to stop the run by occupying multiple offensive linemen, freeing linebackers to run unabated at ballcarriers. However, Louisiana Tech’s preseason All-Conference USA right guard Matt Shepperd may try to do the job himself.
If the 6-foot-2, 305-pound Sheppard can control Davenport by himself, it will go a long way toward opening up holes for the Bulldogs’ running game.
Former Tulane standout D.J. Banks will start at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner for Louisiana Tech. Banks left the Green Wave after his sophomore season in 2010 because of disagreements about the offensive system under Green Wave coach Bob Toledo.
After sitting out a year because of the transfer, Banks earned first team All-WAC honors as a return specialist last season, averaging 26.8 yards per kick return, including a touchdown.