Tulane's inexperienced defense gets early test against TCU

Updated: August 31, 2003, 8:11 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- Tulane's inexperienced defenders could find cause for concern or inspiration in the stories of TCU quarterback Tye Gunn and Horned Frogs running back Lonta Hobbs.

Last season, injuries to others elevated Gunn from a reserve role and Hobbs from red-shirt status, and the young, unproven players thrived as TCU tied for the Conference USA title.

Tulane's defense -- which returns only three starters from 2002 -- will need similar breakout performances against the No. 25 Horned Frogs on Monday night in the opener for both teams.

"We have a lot to learn about ourselves, and there is no better opponent to do it against than TCU," Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said.

Gunn, a 6-foot-3, 214-pounder from LaGrange, Texas, came in for Sean Stilley in the Horned Frogs' fourth game last season. TCU won that game and the next four as Gunn completed nearly 63 percent of his passes before a season-ending knee injury against Southern Mississippi.

"Tye can really run. And he can make every throw," Scelfo said, noting that TCU averaged slightly more than 40 points in the four games Gunn started last season.

Hobbs rushed for 1,029 yards in 2002, averaging 128.6 yards. He scored 13 touchdowns, a school record for freshmen. He did that in only eight games before being selected as Conference USA Freshman of the Year and TCU's Offensive MVP.

Another Horned Frogs' running back, Ricky Madison, rushed for 719 yards last season and has had 100-plus yard games.

"I'm excited," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "Both Ricky and Lonta have had great camps."

TCU's defense ranked first nationally last season, allowing 240.3 total yards and 64.8 yards on the ground, but the unit has lost five starters, including linebacker LaMarcus McDonald, who eight tackles in TCU's 17-10 victory over Tulane in 2002, including a deflected pass and four sacks.

Still, TCU has a strong and experienced front line, which will need to get pressure on Tulane's senior quarterback, J.P. Losman. Losman, a UCLA transfer, completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,468 yards last season.

"I think he is one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback in the country. I say that with no reservations," said Scelfo, who also coached current Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Losman will have back perhaps Tulane's best receiver, Roydell Williams, who missed nearly all of last season with an ankle injury. Two seasons ago, Williams caught a team-leading 56 passes for 886 yards.

Williams "just needs to go out there and turn it loose," Scelfo said.

Also looking for a strong start is Tulane running back Mewelde Moore, who has gained more than 1,000 yards on the ground in each of the last two seasons. Coming into this season, he has more career rushing yards (3,449) and all-purpose yards (5,182) than any other active Division I-A player.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index