Sep 7, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Junior quarterback Nick Montana posted the first 300-yard passing game of his Green Wave career and senior wide receiver Ryan Grant tallied career highs with 14 catches for 187 yards, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 41-39 decision to South Alabama on Saturday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Green Wave (1-1) fell behind 28-7 early in the second quarter and rallied back to take a 33-31 advantage midway through the third quarter only to see South Alabama (1-1) score the game's next 10 points. Tulane made things interesting late when Montana connected with Grant for a 10-yard touchdown toss with 1:19 remaining on the clock to cut the deficit to a pair, but a two-point conversion attempt came up empty and the Jaguars recovered the ensuing on-side kick to put the game away.
"This was a very disappointing loss for us," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "In the first half, our defense started off real, real slow. Too slow and (South Alabama) could begin to move the ball and get a lead. Then we came back in the second half and got some things fixed defensively, but we are not good enough to play from behind like that every week.
"We talked about it all week long. The most desperate team is going to win this game. I thought they were a lot more desperate than us. We didn't really do much in the first half and then our eyes opened up in the second half."
Montana completed 29-of-47 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns. Eight different Tulane players caught at least one pass, including a four-catch outing by sophomore tight end Sydie London and three-catch performances by juniors Xavier Rush and Rob Kelley.
The Jaguars reached the endzone on four of their first five possessions as Ross Matheny sandwiched scoring runs of 35 and 12 yards around a 14-yard touchdown pass to Shavarez Smith and a 30-yard TD strike to Davin Hawkins. Tulane squeezed a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Orleans Darkwa between Matheny's passes into the endzone to account for the 28-7 tally on the scoreboard, and the Green Wave rattled off 11 unanswered points during the second quarter as Montana found junior wideout Justyn Shackleford for a 29-yard touchdown pass, Tulane scored a safety following a bad snap on a South Alabama punt attempt, and senior preseason All-American Cairo Santos nailed a 47-yard field goal with 1:31 before the break to make it 28-19.
The Jaguars halted the Green Wave run on the final possession of the half when Aleem Sunanon capped a seven-play, 46-yard drive with a 46-yard field goal as time expired to stretch the lead to 12 heading into the locker room.
After allowing 328 yards in the first half, the Green Wave defense stiffened after intermission and forced a trio of turnovers while holding South Alabama to just 56 combined yards over its next seven possessions. An interception by freshman linebacker Nico Marley set up a three-play, 15-yard drive which Darkwa capped with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make it 31-26. Senior linebacker Dominique Robertson followed suit with a pick of his own two Jaguar drives later, and Montana connected with Grant for a 40-yard scoring strike on the next play from scrimmage to put Tulane on top 33-31 with 6:35 to play in the third quarter.
The Jaguar defense kept Tulane off the board until the final moments and South Alabama got a big play from its special teams as Qudarius Ford blocked a punt which was recovered by Terrence Timmons in the endzone to put USA on top for good, 38-33, with just over a minute to play in the stanza.
The drive which led to the blocked punt was the first of three in which South Alabama held Tulane to negative yards of total offense and the Jaguars got a big turnover midway through the fourth quarter when Roman Buchanan picked off a deep throw by Montana with 9:46 to go in the ballgame.
After being stymies for much of the final 30 minutes, Metheny and the South Alabama offense drove 78 yards on nine plays down to the Tulane six where Sunanon accounted for his team's final points with a 23-yard field goal. Down by eight, Montana marched his team down to the Jaguar 10-yard line and appeared to throw another interception to Buchanan, but the play - which was initially called a pick on the field - was ruled an incompletion, and Montana found Grant for a 10-yard touchdown. With a chance to tie the game with a two-point conversion, Montana rolled right under heavy pressure and his pass was off the mark.
Junior strong safety Sam Scofield led the Tulane defense with a career-best 15 tackles (13 solo, 2 assists) and Robertson had a career-high tackle total of his own with 11 (10 solo, 1 assist). Both players had 2.0 tackles for loss while Robertson and junior defensive end Tyler Gilbert each had a sack.
Metheny, meanwhile, completed 19-of-30 passes for 290 yards and a pair of touchdowns while running 11 times for 75 yards and two scores. Wes Saxton was Matheny's favorite target on the day, hauling in seven passes for 92 yards. Ford led the Jaguar defense with eight tackles (5 solo, 3 assists).
The Green Wave return to action on Thursday, Sept. 12, when they travel to Ruston, La., to take on Louisiana Tech. Kickoff for that game is slated for 6:30 p.m. and it will be televised live nationally on Fox Sports 1. That is the first of three straight road games as Tulane will play at Syracuse on Sept. 21 and at ULM on Sept. 28 before returning to the Superdome on Oct. 5 when the Wave play host to North Texas for Homecoming 2013.
For tickets to the Tulane/North Texas game, as well as future Green Wave events, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.