Football Defeats Louisiana Tech In C-USA Opener, 24-15

Junior running back Rob Kelley ran for a season-best 87 yards during Tulane's 24-15 win over Conference USA foe Louisiana Tech.

Junior running back Rob Kelley ran for a season-best 87 yards during Tulane's 24-15 win over Conference USA foe Louisiana Tech.

Sept. 12, 2013

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RUSTON, La. - Playing its final season as a member of Conference USA, the Tulane University football team opened its farewell tour in fine fashion as the Green Wave defeated league newcomer Louisiana Tech, 24-15, on Thursday evening at Joe Aillet Stadium.

Tulane trailed at halftime, 9-7, but rattled off 17-straight second half points to all but put the game away. The Bulldogs made things interesting late on a touchdown pass with 3:44 left in regulation to make it a nine-point game, but the two-point conversion failed. Sophomore Darion Monroe recovered the ensuing on-sides kick attempt, and nine consecutive running plays ticked away the remainder of the clock and spark the Green Wave celebration.

"Tonight's win wasn't pretty at all, but a win is a win," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "We turned the ball over and gave them a lot of opportunities. I thought our defense played outstanding after last week, which was a big-time wake-up call. Our offense came around when we had to and we came from behind on the road. This is a big win for our program.

"A win like this gives us a little more confidence. These players are ready to win now, even though we're a pretty young team. Going on the road and winning is a great way to gain confidence, but we need to enjoy tonight, work on our mistakes and carry our momentum into next week's game."

With the win, Tulane improves to 2-1 on the year while dropping the Bulldogs to 1-2. The victory was the Green Wave's first in a league-opening contest since a 31-10 decision at SMU on Sept. 24, 2005 and also snapped an 11-game road skid dating back to a 49-10 victory at UAB on Sept. 17, 2011.

Junior running back Rob Kelley led a 135-yard Tulane rushing effort with a season-best 87 yards on nine carries, while senior running back Orleans Darkwa added 68 yards and a touchdown on 20 totes. Junior quarterback Nick Montana completed 20-fo-36 passes for 235 yards and a pair of scores, and senior wideout Ryan Grant led the aerial attack with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

The linebacking tandem of senior Zach Davis and freshman Nico Marley shared team-high tackle honors with eight each, and both Marley and senior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley had 3.0 tackles for loss. The Green Wave defense, which held the Bulldogs to a 16-or-44 showing throwing the ball, tallied 12 pass break-ups - including two apiece by defensive backs Lorenzo Doss, Sam Scofield, Derrick Strozier and Jordan Sullen.

Turnovers plagued the Green Wave throughout the contest as Tulane coughed it up three times in the first half and once in the second. The Wave's defense, however, was up to the task and held the Bulldogs to just three field goal tries on the ensuing drives for a combined three points. Conversely, Tulane forced a pair of turnovers of its own and turned them into 10 points

Louisiana Tech drew first blood with a 25-yard field goal off the toe of Kyle Fischer 5:11 into the contest, and Fischer added a 27-yard boot 3:46 later to stake the Bulldogs to a 6-0 lead. The Green Wave offense got on track on the ensuing drive and Montana capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Grant which put Tulane on top 7-6.

A 37-yard Fischer field goal gave Tech the lead back with 10:41 left to play in the second quarter, but that would not only be the final points of the first half but the last scored by the Bulldogs until the waning moments of the contest.

Doss halted Louisiana Tech's opening drive with an interception of Bulldogs' quarterback Ryan Higgins, and senior All-American kicker Cairo Santos put Tulane ahead for good four plays later when he split the uprights from 51 yards away to make it 10-9.

The Louisiana Tech special teams unit pinned the Green Wave deep in the own territory one possession later as Gerald Shouse' 52-yard punt was downed at the Tulane six, but that just set the stage for an 11-play, 94-yard drive which saw Montana find junior wideout Xavier Rush over the middle for a 38-yard score to stretch the advantage to eight.

The Bulldogs had a chance to claw back into the game midway through the fourth quarter when Daniel Cobb recovered a Tulane fumble, setting up the Louisiana Tech offense at the Green Wave 11-yard line with just over 10 minutes to play. But the Tulane's defense held and forced a 30-yard field goal try, and escaped the situation totally unscathed as Fischer pushed his attempt wide left for his second miss of the day.

Two possessions later, the defense set up another Tulane score as Warmsley sacked Higgins and stripped him of the ball, and junior defense end Tyler Gilbert fell on the loose pigskin at the two. One play later, senior Darkwa plunged in over the left side of the line to make it 24-9. Louisiana Tech responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive that saw Ryan Higgins find Trent Taylor for an eight-yard score, but the game was all but decided by that time.

Tevin King led Louisiana Tech with 88 yards rushing on 14 carries while Richie Casey paced the squad with four catches for 36 yards. Bulldogs starting quarterback Scotty Young completed 9-of-28 passes for 108 yards while Higgins came off the bench to go 7-of -16 for 57 yards. Cobb paced the defense with 10 tackles (3 solo, 7 assists).

The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Sept. 21, when they travel to New York to take on Syracuse 11:30 a.m. (CDT) in the Carrier Dome. The game against the Orange is the second of three straight road games as Tulane will play at ULM on Sept. 28 before returning to the Mercedes-Benz 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.