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Conference USA football: Problems continue to pile up for Tulane; McHargue cleared

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tulane's rough football season has gotten even rougher. The Green Wave was down to its third-string quarterback in Saturday's 63-10 loss to Louisiana-Monroe - and even that signal-caller, fifth-year senior D.J. Porter, was banged up following the game.

"You hate to let your enemy know your weaknesses, but he got hit eight to 10 times during the game and there were some hard hits," Tulane Coach Curtis Johnson said. "He's just a little banged up. He can move around and do some things, but he'll do other things and it won't feel pleasant."

Starter Ryan Griffin is out with a shoulder injury, while No. 2 quarterback Devin Powell hurt his toe. Ponder is listed as the starter for Saturday's game at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Ponder threw for 160 yards and a touchdown, while tossing three interceptions and fumbling once, in his first career start.

The Green Wave is struggling everywhere, averaging just five rushing yards and eight points per game, while allowing nearly 491 yards and 43 points per game.

Tulane is dead last the Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense, scoring offense and rushing offense, 112th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.

Johnson can't pinpoint just one area of concern. He's looking to instill any shred of confidence and is still trying to find continuity in Tulane's offense, especially its offensive line. And he's been plugging in more freshmen into important spots than he'd like.

"If I wasn't bald, I would be," he said.

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RICE IS breathing easier now that starting quarterback Taylor McHargue has been cleared to play.

McHargue was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week for his 467-yard passing, 153-yard rushing performance in a double-overtime loss to Marshall, but he hurt his shoulder in the game and sat out the Owls 35-14 loss last Saturday to Houston.

Driphus Jackson started in McHargue's place, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns, but the dual threat that McHargue poses wasn't there. Rice rushed for just 69 yards and Jackson carried the ball 12 times for minus-20 yards.

"Houston played hard," Rice Coach David Bailiff said. "They game planned against a young quarterback. We knew they were going to blitz us with a freshman quarterback in his first start. They took the off week and threw some things at us that we really weren't anticipating."

Still, Bailiff thought Jackson played well enough to win the game, but offensive execution was lacking overall.

"We did not execute, and that's one of the things we have not been able to do this season is execute," he said. "Way too many dropped passes. We left too many opportunities and points out on the field and you can't do that in college football."

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SMU QUARTERBACK  Garrett Gilbert's stat line in the Mustangs' 24-16 loss to TCU looks downright ghastly - 15-of-40 passing for 190 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. But SMU Coach June Jones isn't piling all the blame on his quarterback.

"He made, I thought, two bad decisions, but he's trying to do the right thing," Jones said. "He was competitive and did make some good throws in some adverse conditions."

Much of the problem, Jones said, came from dropped passes - at least six - by Mustangs receivers.

 Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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