“Not again,” thought Sam Scofield.
Actually, Tulane’s junior strong safety isn’t quite sure what he was thinking while he was standing in the tunnel of the Carrier Dome, forced into spectator status for the second half of the Green Wave’s Sept. 21 game at Syracuse after a knee to the head produced concussion-like symptoms.
But Scofield is certain he was contemplating the idea of missing extensive playing time.
And after suffering a broken wrist as a true freshman that cost him two games and having to deal with a shoulder injury last season that gave him major problems even after he sat out two games, Scofield wasn’t up the idea of being sidelined for a third time, especially after he’d worked so hard on his conditioning in the offseason.
And even more especially with the opportunity for Tulane to be playing meaningful games in October, probably into November, and dare we say it, for the first time in more than a decade — in December.
“It’s all we talk about — having a winning season and going to a bowl game,” Scofield said. “Most of the guys on this team were part of successful teams in high school (St. Thomas More of Lafayette, Scofield’s alma mater lost six games in his four years there), and it’s mind-boggling that we haven’t been here in so long.”
“We’re here to turn the ship around.”
But it’s hard to help in that effort when the doctors tell you that you can’t play. And the early diagnosis was that Scofield would be out for at least one game, maybe as many as six.
For Tulane to lose the team’s leading tackler, who, along with free safety Darion Monroe, are the defense’s signal-callers, would be a major liability.
“We could have missed him just being out there making checks with because we’ve learned the defense so well,” Monroe said. “And he’d built his body up so much so he wouldn’t get injured.
“It would have really been tough on him.”
However, on the flight home after the Wave’s 52-17 defeat, Scofield’s head started to clear.
After resting on Sunday and Monday of last week, being tested, sitting out practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and going no-contact on Thursday, Scofield was cleared to play.
And last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, Scofield contributed four solo tackles in the Wave’s 31-14 upset victory that has Tulane (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) going into this Saturday’s homecoming game against North Texas above .500 this deep into the season for the first time since 2003.
“We were probably dancing around in the locker room a little more than we should have, but it was such a weight off our shoulders,” Scofield said of ULM game. “In the past, we’d gone into games like that and hit a wall that knocked us down for the rest of the year.
“Now we know we haven’t won a homecoming game in a long time (2006 vs. Army). So that makes this game just that much bigger.”
Winning Saturday, and keeping it going after that certainly would make a difference in the perception of Tulane football, if not to the public, but to the students whose support is seldom rises above lackluster.
This season started with the traditional sizable student turnout for the opener against Jackson State, moved to Thursday in large part to avoid losing them over the Labor Day weekend.
But despite a 34-7 victory, there was a considerable drop off for the South Alabama game. And although it went to the wire before the Wave lost 41-39, there were less than 50 around at the end when the team nevertheless gathered in front of them to sing the alma mater.
“We’d like to see more of them there,” said Scofield, who regularly lobbies his Kappa Alpha bothers and others he encounters to come. “But I guess they think it’s inconvenient to wake up in the morning and take a bus to the Superdome.
“I think it’ll be different in the new stadium.”
Maybe. But if Sam Scofield can shake off a concussion in order to play, then maybe the Tulane students can muster themselves to catch the bus.
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