The Tulane Green Wave visits Syracuse this Saturday at 12:30 in the afternoon. Syracuse will be looking for win number two on the season against a team in the middle of a three game road trip, one with offensive line issues, some young players making impacts and a very capable quarterback in Nick Montana (son of Joe Montana).
Head coach Curtis Johnson discussed some of the issues the team has faced and what they see in the Orange heading into Saturdays Dome tilt. Johnson reviewed the team’s league-opening win on Thursday evening in Ruston, La., and addressed the upcoming game at Syracuse – a team the Green Wave fell to 37-34 two years ago on a field goal as time expired. And while Johnson was happy to see his team bounce back from a week-two loss, he was quick to point out how physical and tough he expects the upcoming game against the Orange to be.
On his team’s improvement from one game to the next
“The offense hasn’t been consistent, but they’ve been playing better and better. Throughout the season, I think Nick Montana has improved from game one to game two to game three. Each game, he’s getting better and better. The runners are improving, as is the offensive line. Offensively, we’re kind of steady. I’d like to see more running of the football, but those guys did well the other night. I thought the offense was pretty consistent. We’ve got to get better and we know it. Defensively, the first half of that game, it was mental mistake after mental mistake against South Alabama. You get sick if you go back and watch it with our critical eyes. Then all of a sudden, our defense settled in and gave up just 10 points – and seven of those came on a special teams play – so you have the feeling that they could play well. Now, will they continue to play well? I just hope so, but I’ve always felt that this defense is a pretty good defense.”
On if he’s reopened competition along the offensive line
“I think we’ve got three tackles who play very well – (Arturo) Uzdavinis, (Sean) Donnelly and (Todd) Jacquet. We just have to figure out between the three guys, how we’re going to rotate them in. I don’t know if any of them are great players right now, but I think all of them are playing well so they should be playing. It’s no different than Chris Taylor playing – and he’s a little bit banged up right now – because I feel we have three good guards. The thing about the center is you can’t have snaps too high or snaps on the ground. You just have to keep the pressure up and see who the best guy is to get the ball – first and foremost – back to the quarterback.”
On if the possible moves along the o-line is based on Louisiana Tech’s sacks on Thursday
“I don’t think so. I think that if we get the communications with the line and the quarterback/center (exchange) – they were a little bit of an issue – and if we can get that taken care of we can knock a bunch of sacks out.”
On if he compares Nick Montana to Drew Brees and if it is hard for his players to live up to
“It’s just a habit if you have a great quarterback. And I almost told him that his dad would have thrown that ball that he took the sack on. It’s only hard if you don’t want to be great. I think they do want to be great. They take it, they kind of laugh at it and they tease me about it all the time. They understand that my expectation for them is very high and I think Nick is going to be a tremendous player for us. It’s good to have guys that you can compare to.”
On if that sacks allowed total is a concern at this point
“Absolutely. When you’re in a game like the South Alabama game, it’s throw, throw, throw, throw. You have to throw it to catch up. Being a young quarterback, you don’t want to put him in that position. I like the game last week against Louisiana Tech. Obviously, we won. If you take away the turnovers that we had, but it was a balanced attack. It was run. It was pass. It was quick passing game. It was a lot of three-step and a lot of stuff that he’s very capable of doing. Screens were a big deal, but if you’re down by 20 points, you can’t throw a screen because everyone knows everything about what you’re doing and you’re throwing it. I want it to be a 50-50 run-pass balance. I think that’s what he’s good at.”
On Montana’s hand injury and if that affected his ability to take the snap
“Because of the injury, we’re doing some things a little bit different. He’s getting accustomed to the injury. He’s doing well. Today was a lot better than it’s been for the last week and a half. I expect that by this game, he’ll be ready ready with that finger.”
On Syracuse potentially being a more physical team than the one they saw on Thursday at Louisiana Tech
“They see it. The guys know when they watch tape, they know exactly what’s going on. They know that this opponent is going to be tough. They know they’re going to be big. They’re going to be physical on the offensive line and defensive line. Syracuse has been in the weight room a lot. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I think our guys will be ready to play. The way they’ve practiced the last couple of days, they practiced with a lot of emotion and a lot of energy, they’re be ready. If we can do enough to win this game, we’ll see. We know they’re big. We know they’re physical. We know this is going to be a tough opponent for us.”
On his game plan for the Orange
“It’s to win. That’s the biggest part of the plan. You’ve got to possess the ball. I think time of possession is going to be important. That and turnover ratio will be the two most important things to going on the road and winning. The third thing is you’ve got to be able to run the football. If we can run the football and stop the run, don’t let them get in a frenzy of doing all these blitzes and stuff, I think we have a good chance of winning.”
On Syracuse making a change at quarterback
“He’s played before. They ran both of them in and out of the game little bit. I think both of those guys are good. The one kid just threw six interceptions. A couple of them were tipped balls and this, that and the other. Yes, they’re making a change, but both of those guys are good players. Both of them are big. Both of them are physical. Both of them can run. This guy they’ve got now, he can run maybe a little bit better. We’re going to see both of them and I think both of them are good players.”
- The Orange continues its three-game homestand on Sept. 21 when it hosts Tulane at the Carrier Dome (12:30 p.m./ACC RSN).
- Syracuse looks to make it two wins in a row after drubbing Wagner, 54-0, last week in its Dome opener, giving Scott Shafer his inaugural head coaching victory.
- The Orange can also reach a major milestone with a victory against Tulane Saturday. Syracuse has 699 all-time wins since it began sponsoring football in 1889 and the Orange can become the 15th FBS program to reach 700 wins with a triumph against the Green Wave.
- Tulane carries a 2-1 overall record into the contest, including a 1-0 mark in Conference USA play. The Green Wave opened league competition with a 24-15 road win against Louisiana Tech in its most recent outing.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 Location: Syracuse, N.Y. Stadium: Carrier Dome (49,262) Kickoﬀ: 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Series: SU leads, 7-1
TV: ACC Regional Sports Network