Oct. 26, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - It wasn't always pretty but the outcome sure was sweet for the Tulane University football team as the Green Wave won its fourth-consecutive ballgame with a 14-7 victory over Conference USA foe Tulsa on Saturday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.
Making his second start in as many games for the injured Nick Montana, redshirt-freshman quarterback Devin Powell threw a pair of touchdown passes and got some help from the Green Wave defense, which forced four turnovers. With the win - Tulane's first over the Golden Hurricane since 1968 to snap an eight-game skid since Tulsa joined C-USA back in 2005 - the Green Wave improve to 6-2 on the year and remain perfect in league play at 4-0.
"It feels good I guess, but again, it goes back to the 24-hour rule," second-year Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said of becoming bowl eligible. "I'm already thinking about FAU. I know these guys have this bliss that we like and it's a good feeling for us, but we have to keep moving on and going farther. These coaches are very good at what they do. All of our players do what they are asked to do every week, and in general, this entire football team is a group of outstanding men.
"I won the Super Bowl (as an assistant with the New Orleans Saints), and this felt so much better. The Super Bowl wasn't as climactic for me. When (former Saints cornerback) Tracy (Porter) got the interception, I thought the game was over. With this game, it almost came down to the very last play. These wins have been exciting, good and thrilling. They've been just what you want for a young team. I'm so blessed to have all of these guys back."
Powell finished the day 17-of-29 for 164 yards and his favorite target was senior wideout Ryan Grant, who pulled down seven receptions for 89 yards and a score. Junior wide receiver Justyn Shackleford had the Green Wave's other touchdown catch - a 19-yard toss with 42 seconds to play in the first half to tie the ballgame at 7-all - and finished with four grabs for 45 yards.
The game, however, belonged to the defense. In addition to the three interceptions and one fumble recovery, the Green Wave held Tulsa to just 139 yards through the air - a season low and the fewest allowed since giving up 119 at Rice on Nov. 19, 2011.
Junior strong safety Sam Scofield led the unit with a career-high 18 tackles (14 solo, 4 assists), including 1.5 tackles for loss, to go with two pass break-ups and a forced fumble. He was one of three Tulane players to finish with career-high tackle totals as senior cornerback Jordan Sullen had 10 (8 solo, 2 assists) and senior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley posted eight (7 solo, 1 assist). Warmsley led an 11 tackle-for-loss performance by the Green Wave with a career-best 4.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage, the highest total by a Tulane player since Antonio Harris had 4.0 against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 22, 2007.
"This is what we talked about all summer and all throughout the year - turnovers," Johnson said. "We know that if we create turnovers, we will be good...I think our secondary is outstanding. They can turn guys over. Our linebackers are playing well. If we can stop the run, make teams throw it and force teams into being one-dimensional, we will have a chance on winning a lot of games."
Two of Tulane's interceptions came in the opening quarter. Sophomore free safety Darion Monroe ended Tulsa's second drive with his first career pick, and Sullen followed suit with an interception in the endzone on the Golden Hurricane's next drive to turn the visitors away empty following an 11-play, 73-yard drive which chewed 6:19 off the game clock.
Tulsa returned the favor late in the first quarter when Will Barrow snared a Powell offering and returned it 64 yards to the Green Wave five-yard line. Tulane's defense held on the next three downs, but running back Trey Watts plunged in from one yard out on the first play of the second quarter to put Tulsa on top, 7-0.
The Golden Hurricane had a chance to pad its lead two drives later as Tulsa marched 62 yards on 11 plays to set up a field goal, but Carl Salazar's 35-yard try drifted wide right to keep it a one-score game. Tulane made the miss hurt as Powell completed five of his next eight passes for 59 yards and added a nine-yard run on a broken play while capping the 13-play, 80-yard march with his scoring strike to Shackleford to make it 7-7 at the break.
After forcing a punt on Tulsa's first possession of the second half, Tulane picked up where it left off offensively on its initial third-quarter drive. Grant converted a fourth-and-three situation with a sideline catch right at the first-down marker - which was initially ruled short but was overturned following a booth review - and later hauled in a 33-yard scoring strike from Powell for what proved to be the final points of the ballgame.
Taking the field with a seven-point lead, the Green Wave defense took over. Tulane sandwiched a pair of three-and-outs around an interception by sophomore cornerback Lorenzo Doss - his fifth of the season and the 10th of his career - and ended Tulsa's next drive when Scofield jarred the ball loose from Golden Hurricane wideout Keevan Lucas and senior middle linebacker Zach Davis pounced on the loose pigskin.
The Green Wave had a chance to put the game away with another score, but Tulsa refused to go away quietly and drew new life when Darnell Walker intercepted a deep Powell pass at the Golden Hurricane four-yard line. The Tulsa offense converted a fourth-down try from its own nine and later had it first-and-10 at its 44 after quarterback Dane Evans scrambled for 10 yard.
From there, however, Warmsley stopped running back Ja'Terian Douglas for a two-yard loss, Evans threw incomplete and sophomore defense end Royce LaFrance logged a 13-yard sack to set up fourth-and-25 from the Tulsa 29. With the game on the line, Evans heaved a long pass deep down the middle of the field, but Scofield was there to bat it down and spark the Green Wave celebration.
"I was just making plays as they came to me," Scofield said. "I didn't know it was 18 (tackles). We just had a great game plan and I thought we executed very well."
Evans was 13-of-30 passing for 139 yards and three interceptions and Lucas led the aerial attack with five catches for 63 yards. Douglas paced the Tulsa ground game - which churned up 205 yards on 46 carries - with 79 yards on 17 rushing attempts. Donnell Hawkins led the Golden Hurricane defense with 10 tackles (7 solo, 3 assists), including a sack among 2.5 tackles for loss.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Nov. 2, when they travel to Boca Raton, Fla., to face C-USA newcomer Florida Atlantic at 4 p.m. (CDT) at FAU Stadium. The game against the Owls is the first of two road games as Tulane will play at Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 9 before returning to New Orleans to close out the home portion of the 2013 regular season against UTEP on Nov. 23.
For tickets to that 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.