Oct. 8, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - Junior quarterback Ryan Griffin completed 24-of-30 passes for a 320 yards and junior linebacker Trent Mackey posted a career-best 18 tackles, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 37-34 heartbreaker to Syracuse Saturday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Green Wave (2-4) trailed by as many as 17 twice, including a 31-14 deficit late in the first half. From there, Tulane outscored the Orange 20-3 courtesy of two scoring receptions by freshman Xavier Rush and a pair of field goals off the toe of sophomore Cairo Santos to knot the score at 34-all with 2:53 left to play. Syracuse (4-2), however, responded with a 12-play, 66-yard drive on the final possession of the game and Ross Krautman drilled a 21-yard field goal as time expired to account for the final score.
"We played a good opponent and we played them toe-to-toe," Tulane head coach Bob Toledo said. "We made some mistakes that basically cost us the football game. There are always a handful of plays that turn the course of the game. We had some penalties that were key...It is unfortunate that happened. I am extremely proud of our football team.
"I felt they battled back. They competed tonight. They were refusing to lose and it was just sad that it had to happen that way. I thought Ryan Griffin had a heck of a football game. I thought Xavier Rush, the true freshman, made some big plays...I thought our kids played hard. We came out in the second half, defensively, and we picked up the intensity a little bit and gave them a heck of a run until the end there."
Tulane had a chance to make things interesting as the Green Wave appeared to force a three-and-out on what proved to be Syracuse's game-winning drive as freshman linebacker Matthew Bailey broke up a pass intended for Van Chew on third down. On the play, however, senior defensive end Dezman Moses was flagged for a blow to the head of quarterback Ryan Nassib to give the Orange new life.
Syracuse got two more first downs later in the drive and following a timeout with two seconds to play, Krautman split the uprights to give the Orange the victory.
Griffin's completions and yardage totals were both season highs and Rush - who entered the game with just one reception for nine yards - had four catches for 135 yards with scoring grabs of 60 and 58 yards. Rush becomes the first Tulane player to surpass the 100-yard receiving mark since Ryan Grant had 140 against Rice last season.
Mackey, who had 16 solo stops among his 18 tackles, was one of two Tulane defenders to post double-digit tackle totals as fellow junior linebacker Darryl Farley had a career-high 12 (7 solo, 5 assists). The Green Wave defense stepped up in a big way after halftime and held Syracuse to just 61 total yards in the second half until the final drive of the contest.
Tulane opened the game on a high note as sophomore running back Orleans Darkwa capped an eight-play, 80-yard opening drive with a 40-yard touchdown jaunt to stake the Green Wave to a 7-0 lead. The advantage was short lived, however, as Jeremiah Kobena returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards to the Tulane five, and Antwon Bailey hit paydirt one play later to tie the score.
The score was the first of four straight for the Orange as Krautman kicked a 29-yard field goal, Nassib hit Dorian Graham for a 10-yard touchdown, and Nassib scored on a four-yard keeper to stake Syracuse to a 24-7 advantage. A one-yard Darkwa touchdown plunge cut the deficit to 10, but the Orange answered with a one-yard pass from Nassib to Graham to make it 31-14 with 2:58 to play in the first half.
The Green Wave refused to give in and closed the half with a 10-0 rally as Rush scored his first touchdown of the game from 60 yards out 47 seconds later, and Santos connected on a 42-yard field goal as the first half expired to make it 31-24at the break.
Tulane carried the momentum into the third quarter and Santos made it a four-point affair after hitting a 49-yard boot with 4:13 left to play in the stanza. Syracuse stretched the lead back to seven courtesy of a 32-yard Krautman kick with 4:19 left to play, but the Wave came right back and Griffin connected with Rush for another long touchdown to tie the game and set the stage for the Orange's game winning drive.
"That is the one thing our kids said, they were going to refuse to lose tonight," Toledo said. "They weren't going to give in to anything. It is like somebody trying to take away your prized possession; you are going to fight until the bitter end. That's what we did tonight. We competed right down to the last couple of seconds and unfortunately it didn't go our way."
Bailey led all players with 111 yards on 24 carries, and Nassib completed 19-of-34 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for the Orange. Graham and Bailey shared team-high reception honors with four each while Phillip Thomas paced the Syracuse defense with 13 tackles (8 solo, 5 assists).
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Oct. 15, when they play host to Conference USA rival UTEP at 2:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game against the Miners is the second of a three-game homestand for Tulane as the Wave will battle league foe Memphis on Oct. 22 as part of the Homecoming 2011 celebration.
Single-game tickets for next weekend's game, as well as future Green Wave Athletics events, are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Sideline tickets are $35, adult endzone seats selling for $20 and youth endzone seats cost $10. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.