Oct. 15, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - The Green Wave defense forced three turnovers and junior middle linebacker Trent Mackey tallied double-digit tackle totals for the fifth time in seven games so far in 2011, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 44-7 decision to Conference USA foe UTEP Saturday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Tulane committed four turnovers via interception - the most since throwing four picks against UAB on Nov. 15, 2008 - and had a blocked punt result in a touchdown. With the score knotted at 7-7 with 7:57 left to play in the first quarter, the Miners scored 34 unanswered points the rest of the way to account for the final score. The loss was the fourth straight for the Green Wave, who fall to 2-5 on the year and 1-2 in C-USA play. UTEP, meanwhile, improves to 3-3 and 2-1 in league action.
"I feel like I have been on a bad roller-coaster ride," Tulane head football coach Bob Toledo said. "We have been up, we've been down, we've been up, we've been down. We just don't seem to have any consistency, and that has been disappointing. Today, the four interceptions and the blocked punt for touchdown dug us a hole that we couldn't get out of.
"(UTEP) made some big plays running the football against us. We missed a lot of tackles. They made a long pass down the middle. They basically said they were going to take Orleans (Darkwa) away. They didn't totally, but they did in the sense that we had to get out of our game-plan and stop running the football. We had to throw way too many passes...They punched us right in the mouth and we didn't respond very well."
Mackey led the team in tackles with 14 (12 solo, 2 assists) and had one of Tulane's five tackles for loss on the day. In addition, junior cornerbacks Ryan Travis and Alex Lauricella picked off a pass, and redshirt-freshman linebacker recovered a fumble. Travis also chipped in a career-best three pass break-ups in the loss.
The game, however, came down to Green Wave miscues as UTEP scored 10 points off turnovers in addition to a second-quarter blocked punt by Travaun Nixon which Adrian James recovered in the endzone.
The Miners' first points of the day came following a Ryan Griffin interception three plays into the ballgame. After Nixon's pick and three-yard return to the Green Wave 25, it took UTEP just three plays to hit paydirt as Vernon Frazier went untouched for a 15-yard touchdown to go ahead 7-0.
Tulane responded with a nine-play, 92-yard drive which sophomore Orleans Darkwa capped with a seven-yard touchdown run, but UTEP began the route two plays later when Joe Baynard scampered 72 yards for a score to make it 14-7. Leilyon Myers made it a two-score affair with a three-yard touchdown on fourth down one play into the second quarter, and Nixon's block of a Jonathan Ginsburgh punt on the ensuing possession stretched the Miners' lead to 21.
The Green Wave saw a pair of starters forced to leave the game on their next drive as Griffin suffered a bruised hip on a hit by Derrick Morgan, and left guard Zach Ray was sent to the sideline with an undisclosed injury later in the possession. Despite a reshuffled offensive line and with junior D.J. Ponder under center, Tulane appeared to have something going as the squad drove down to the UTEP three. On third-and-goal, however, Ponder was intercepted in the endzone by DeShawn Grayson.
The Miners' added a 41-yard field goal off the toe of Dakota Warren with 42 seconds remaining in the second half and UTEP went into the locker room at the break on top 31-7.
The onslaught continued early in the third quarter as Nick Lamaison connected with Craig Wenrick for a 66-yard touchdown two plays into the second half to make it 38-7 and Warren added a 39-yard boot on UTEP's next drive to push the advantage to 34. Warren's 42-yard field goal with 12;43 remaining in regulation proved to be the final score of the ballgame.
"We lost Zach early and we lost Griffin early, too," Toledo said. "That really hurt us. Then we lost two safeties early. They were out for a while. Shakiel (Smith) came back. Kyle Davis was out for the game. We had a couple other guys that were nicked up that were going in and out. We got banged up pretty good. They beat us up pretty good. Guys have to go in there and guys have to perform and we didn't perform very well."
Ponder finished the day 12-of-33 for 126 yards but threw three interceptions in the most extensive action of his career. Darkwa led the Green Wave ground attack with 69 yards and a score on 14 carries and paced the squad with four receptions. Rookie wideout Justyn Shackleford led Tulane with 51 receiving yards on three catches.
Banyard led all players with 97 rushing yards on nine totes while Myers added 51 on 11 carries as UTEP piled up 266 rushing yards in the win. Lamaison was 6-of-15 for 117 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions, and his favorite target on the afternoon as Mike Edwards, who hauled in three passes for 28 yards. Welsey Miller paced the Miners' defense with 10 stops (9 solo, 1 assist).
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Oct. 22, when they play host to C-USA foe Memphis as part of the Homecoming 2011 celebration. Kickoff for that game is slated for 2:30 p.m.
Single-game tickets for this weekend's games, 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.