Sept. 6, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - What could have been a special night for the upset-minded Tulane Green Wave became a missed opportunity thanks to the Alabama special teams units. The No. 13 (AP/No. 17 USA Today) Crimson Tide used a pair of returns from their punt team to hold off Tulane, 20-6, Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
The Green Wave (0-1) held the Alabama offense to just one touchdown, but two mistakes on the first quarter -an 87-yard punt return for touchdown by Javier Arenas and a 17-yard punt block return for touchdown by Chris Rogers- were the difference making plays for the Crimson Tide (2-0).
Tulane held a 318-172 advantage in total yardage over an Alabama team which racked up 419 yards against No. 9 Clemson last weekend. The Green Wave defense turned in four sacks and a forced fumble while holding the Crimson Tide to under 100 yards rushing.
"First, my hat's off to Alabama," Toledo said. "They are a great football program. Nick's (Saban) is doing a nice job and he has a lot of good young football players. I'm proud of our team's effort. Our kicking game really let us down tonight. They returned a punt for a touchdown. They blocked a punt and returned for a touchdown, and we missed two field goals. Our red zone offense wasn't very good either and that's a credit to them. They did a good job of keeping us out of the end zone."
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Kevin Moore completed 28-of-49 passing attempts in his first career start for 225 yards without an interception. Eleven different players caught passes for the Green Wave, which was led by senior wide out Brian King's six receptions for 51 yards. Junior wide receiver Jeremy Williams and junior tailback Andre Anderson each caught four passes. Anderson led the Green Wave on the ground, with 32 yards, while freshman running back Nathan Austin chipped in 24 yards on five carries.
"It was a lot of fun tonight and an unbelievable atmosphere," Moore said. "The Alabama fans were great and they very loud. I thought I did some good things, but had two or three plays that will haunt me tonight that could have been big plays. One was down in the red zone and then one about midfield during t he second or third quarter. But, I thought we battled hard. We came in and put our heads down and played. We weren't in awe of the situation and I was proud of us for that. We never gave up and a couple of breaks here and there like on special teams or if the offense could have put the ball in the end zone it might have been a different story in the end. They (Alabama) played fantastic. They are a great team with a great defense."
After holding the Tide to a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, Tulane drove across midfield, but were forced to punt on the 46-yard line. Alabama's Javier Arenas took the punt 87 yards to pay-dirt for a 7-0 Crimson Tide lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, junior linebacker Travis Burks' 51-yard long return down to the Alabama 42 was wiped out due to a penalty, and after the re-kick, Tulane could only muster a five-play, 20-yard drive.
Moore completed his first five attempts, but after his first incompletion came on third-down and Alabama defensive back Chris Rogers scooped up teammate Roy Upchurch's blocked punt and raced 17-yards for a touchdown. The extra point was no good as the Tide led 13-0 with 3:15 to go in the first quarter.
The Wave got on the board with a 12-yard drive capped by a 35-yard field goal from junior kicker Ross Thevenot.
Alabama pinned Tulane deep and then Arenas returned a punt 33 yards to the Wave 20-yard line, but the Green Wave defense held and forced a field goal attempt by reserve kicker Corey Smith that hit the upright and bounced back no good.
Tulane drove to the Alabama six-yard line on its final drive of the half, as a 12-play drive was highlighted by a 45-yard reception to junior wide out Chris Dunn from Moore. But after the Tide defense held, Tulane missed a 23-yard field goal attempt. Alabama took a knee and a 13-3 lead into the half.
In the first half, Tulane owned a 166-38 advantage in total offense, and held an 8-5 edge in first downs. Tulane also led in time of possession, but it was the special teams' play that put the Wave behind the Tide. Arenas broke Alabama's single-game return yardage mark in the first half.
Midway through the third quarter, Burks' put a lick on the Tide running back Glen Coffee, forcing a fumble and senior tackle Julian Shives-Sams came out of the pile with the football to give the Wave first and 10 at the Alabama 31. However, the Tide defense once again turned back the Wave, forcing an errant 41-yard field-goal attempt from Thevenot.
On the ensuing possession, Alabama finally got its offense going. The Crimson Tide had only managed 67 yards against the Wave defense before their final drive of the third quarter. Ingram capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive with a 15-TD scamper, giving Alabama a 20-3 lead.
Senior tight end Justin Kessler hauled in a 26-yard catch in traffic, the second reception of his career, setting up first and goal at the four yard line. Thevenot capped the 70-yard, nine-play drive with his second field goal of the game, from 21 yards out, cutting the margin to 20-6 with 11:47 remaining.
The Green Wave converted on fourth-and-one at the Alabama 47-yard line to keep the Wave's chances alive late in the fourth quarter. But on a fourth down, jump ball from the 28-yard line, Dunn couldn't reel in a ricochet off a the back of a defender, and Tulane turned it over on downs with 3:38 remaining.
Tulane's defense held Alabama on third down at the Alabama 40-yard line, giving the Wave one last possession, which Toledo used to get his young players game experience.
"All in all, I think we did pretty well but we have some work to do," Burks said. "We know the car is running and now we just need to tune it up. We made some mistakes that people in the stands probably wouldn't have noticed, but for us it was a big blow. We need to do better. I think Alabama held some things back that we prepared for during the week. I think we had a pretty food game plan against them and we came out and executed, but we didn't come out on top."
Alabama rolled up 262 return yards, 171 off of seven punt returns, and the `Bama defense kept the Green Wave out of the end zone in three red-zone attempts. Junior safety Corey Sonnier, senior linebacker Evan Lee, and sophomore linebacker Devin Holland led Tulane with seven tackles each, while Burks, junior end Logan Kelley, sophomore tackle Justin Adams and senior corner Josh Lumar each put Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson on his back for a sack. Lumar also added a pair of pass breakups.
Ingram led all rusher with 63 yards on the ground for the Crimson Tide on 11 carries. Wilson completed just 11-of-23 for 73 yards and no touchdowns. Tulane's defense held Alabama to just three-of-11 on third downs, while the Wave offense converted on seven of 20, and one-of-two on fourth down.
The Wave had 16 freshmen, including 11 true freshmen, make their first collegiate appearance in the game:. True freshmen Chris Asumnu, Nathan Austin, Harris Howard, Eric Jones, Alex Lauricella, Sule Osagiede, Krystofar Rhymes, Kasey Stelly, Rafael Vazquez, Troy Wainwright and Albert Williams, joined redshirt freshmen Logan CoBell, Josh Smith, Joey Ray, Taylor Echols, and walk-on Charles Gaspard in making their Green Wave debuts.
The Green Wave will play host to East Carolina on Saturday at the Louisiana Superdome.
Line Score Quarter 1 2 3 4 Final Tulane 0 3 0 3 - 6 (13) Alabama 13 0 7 0 - 20
Scoring Summary QTR Time Team Scoring Play TLN-UA 1st 10:45 UA Javier Arenas 87-yard punt return (Leigh Tiffin kick ) 0-7 1st 3:15 UA Chris Rogers 17-yard blocked punt return (Corey Smith kick failed) 0-13 2nd 13:07 TLN Ross Thevenot 35-yard field goal 3-13 3rd 0:00 UA Mark Ingram 15-yard run (Leigh Tiffin kick) 3-20 4th 11:47 TLN Ross Thevenot 21-yard field goal 6-20