Oct. 3, 2009
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Senior Ross Thevenot's connected on a 23-yard field goal with 2:20 left in regulation and Army place kicker Alex Carlton pushed a 37-yard attempt wide right in the game's final seconds as the Tulane University football team rallied late to defeat the Black Knights, 17-16, Saturday afternoon at Michie Stadium.
Tulane trailed Army for the majority of the game and was behind by nine with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter. The Green Wave, however, got a one-yard touchdown run by senior running back André Anderson 2:34 later and Thevenot made amends for a 30-yard miss earlier in the ballgame on what proved to be the game winner.
The win snapped a two-year losing streak to Army and halted a seven-game road losing streak dating back to a 45-31 win at Rice on Nov. 17, 2008. The victory was also Tulane's first win in West Point since a 50-33 win on Sept. 20, 2003, as the Green Wave improved to 2-2 on the year. Army, meanwhile, fell to 2-3 in 2009.
"It's amazing how things work out," Tulane head football coach Bob Toledo said. "Coming out of our meetings this morning, I said to Ross, `You're going to end up kicking the field goal in this football game.' I'll be darn if he didn't do it."
On a day in which fog and dark clouds hung over the area for the 17th meeting between the two schools, the sun only made one appearance. While the clouds parted only momentarily, the opening was long enough for the sun to see Thevenot split the uprights. It was the exact opposite of what happened on the very same field two years ago when Army kicked a field goal to take a 20-17 led and Thevenot missed a potential game-tying boot from 34 yards out to give the Black Knights a three-point victory on Oct. 6, 2007.
"It was a short kick that I have kicked a thousand times in practice," Thevenot said. "I wasn't nervous and it was very gratifying especially after I had already missed one today. It was nice to go out and make that kick. It meant a lot to me after I missed a field goal two years ago, and it gets us back to .500 on the year. This was a great win for the team and it was very exciting for me personally."
On the ensuing kickoff, Army's Damion Hunter returned the ball 46 yards and looked to have the Black Knights in great position with less than two minutes to play. Army passed twice for 15 yards followed by a Kingsley Ehie run down to the 20-yard line. After a pair of stops by the Tulane defense, Army and Tulane each traded timeouts and the Black Knights sent Carlton onto the field with 16 seconds left on the clock. Carlton was a perfect 3-for-3 entering the moment, including a 37-yarder back in the first quarter. This time, his kick was off line and the Tulane sideline erupted in celebration.
"Army is a very difficult opponent to prepare for," Toledo said. "They do things that we just don't see very much. I thought out defense did a phenomenal job. (Defensive coordinator) Steve Stanard did a great job in getting them ready to play. We worked hard and used the two extra days in our bye week to prepare for Army. We never gave up and we never quit."
Anderson was held to minus-three yards through the first 30 minutes of play, but rambled for 70 yards on 17 carries and a score in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Joe Kemp completed 14-of-24 pass attempts for 166 yard, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jeremy Williams eight seconds into the second quarter.
Williams was a force all over the field for the Green Wave, accounting for 221 all-purpose yards. He ran three times for 16 yards, snared six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, and returned three kickoffs for 97 yards - including a 45-yarder.
Defensively, senior linebacker Travis Burks led all players with 12 tackles while freshman Shakiel Smith came up with 10 tackles, including two stops for losses of six yards. Senior cornerback Charles Harris grabbed the lone Army turnover with a first-half interception.
The opening minutes of the game were the mirror image of last year's contest at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans when the Tulane offense went three-and-out before Army blocked a Thevenot punt and recovered it inside the 10-yard line. The same scenario played out on Saturday as Black Knights' defensive tackle Christopher Swain blocked a Thevenot punt and Christopher Swain fell on the football at the Tulane 10.
Three plays later, Army quarterback Trent Steelman capped off a three-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the home team a quick 7-0 lead. Following a Tulane punt, the Black Knights extended their lead to 10-0 on a 37-yard Carlton field goal.
Tulane got on the board with its next possession when the Wave marched 54 yards in 10 plays. Kemp rang up his favorite receiver with a 15-yard touchdown strike to Williams on the second play of the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Army ran the ball down to the Tulane 15-yard line and looked to increase its lead. But on third and six, the Black Knights attempted their first pass of the day and Harris made them pay with an interception near the goal line. Tulane and Army each had two possessions during the final 9:41 of the second quarter, but neither team was able to capitalize and the contest remained 10-7 at the break.
The teams continued to trade punts in the third quarter before Tulane put together a 10-play, 52- yard drive that took the Wave deep into Army territory. Following Kemp's six-yard completion to junior wideout Casey Robottom that fell three yards of a first down, Thevenot attempted to tie the game but his 30-yard attempt was wide left.
Following a pair of three-and-outs by both teams, the Tulane defense stopped Army's option attack and forced yet another punt. Tulane freshman Jordan Garrett, however, was flagged for roughing the punter and the Black Knights made the most of their second chance and Carlton connected on a 32-yard field goal to give Army a 13-7 lead 28 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Williams once again gave Tulane great starting possession with a 35-yard return, but on Tulane's next play from scrimmage, Kemp mishandled the snap and Army recovered at the Green Wave's 33-yard line. Three plays later, Carlton booted his third field goal of the contest with a 36-yard attempt to push the Army advantage to 16-7 at the 11:44 mark.
From there, Tulane marched 61 yards on seven plays and Anderson capped the drive with one-yard scoring plunge to cut the deficit to a pair. Army moved into Green Wave territory on the ensuing possession, but the Tulane defense stopped Jonathan Bulls seven yards shy of a first on fourth down to set up the winning drive.
Taking over at its' own 37-yard line, Tulane got 47 yards from Anderson on six carries, and Kemp found Robottom for a 10-yard gain. Army's defense held inside the 10-yard line, but Thevenot's kick proved to be the difference in the ballgame.
Steelman led Army with 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and completed three of just five passes for 26 yards and a costly interception. Damion Hunter caught all three of Steelman's passes and returned three kickoffs for 100 yards. Stephen Anderson led the Army defense with eight tackles (six solo, two assists) and was one of seven Black Knight players to post a tackle for loss.
Tulane returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 10, when the Green Wave play host to Conference USA foe Marshall in a Homecoming contest in the Louisiana Superdome. Kickoff for that game is slated for 2:30 p.m. For ticket information, contact the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office at (504) 861-WAVE.