Oct. 27, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Senior quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for a school-record 466 yards and tallied a career-high five touchdown passes as the Tulane University football team defeated Conference USA foe UAB, 55-45, on Saturday afternoon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Completing 34-of-42 passes, Griffin eclipsed the previous mark of 447 established by Patrick Ramsey against Army on Sept. 18, 1999. It was Griffin's third-straight game with 300-plus passing yards, and he becomes the first Tulane quarterback to accomplish that feat since J.P. Losman surpassed the 300-yard mark in the first four games of the 2003 season.
With the win, the Green Wave's second in their last three games, Tulane improves to 2-6 on the year and evens its C-USA mark at 2-2. It is the first time Tulane held a .500 mark in league play four games into the conference schedule since 2002. UAB, meanwhile, fell to 1-7 on the year and 0-4 in league play.
"It was a great day for our quarterback," first-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson said. "He's putting up Arena League numbers...He was just sensational. I thought our team fought hard. Our defense would bend, but didn't break. They created turnovers, and I thought that was a key also. Today we also ran the ball well. We're starting to balance this thing out a little better offensively. We're throwing it around a little bit and we did well today against a good opponent."
Griffin's record-setting effort highlighted a game that saw Tulane pile up 619 yards of total offense - the most by a Green Wave squad since the 1998 team rolled up 633 in the regular-season finale against Louisiana Tech.
Wideouts Xavier Rush and Ryan Grant both surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark with 126 on eight catches and 184 on six grabs, respectively, and both pulled down a pair of touchdown passes. Junior Wilson Van Hooser accounted for Griffin's final scoring strike of the afternoon with a 16-yard grab midway through the third quarter. Sophomore running back Rob Kelley led all players with nine catches for a career-best 66 yards.
In addition to the aerial attack, Tulane's running game got on track against the Blazers as the Wave finished the day with 153 yards on 37 carries. Junior Orleans Darkwa led the way with 74 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while Kelley chipped in with 59 yards on eight totes to finish the game with 125 all-purpose yards.
The Green Wave defense gave up a season-high 622 yards to the Blazers, but came up big when it counted. Tulane tallied four turnovers - including a pair of interceptions by freshman cornerback Lorenzo Doss - and stopped UAB on a key fourth-down attempt late in the game to quiet any talks of a comeback.
Senior linebacker Darryl Farley led Tulane with nine stops (7 solo, 2 assists) and a sack among 1.5 tackles for loss. Sophomore safety Sam Scofield accounted for the Green Wave's other interception with a pick in the second quarter, and sophomore linebacker Matthew Bailey had two of the team's six pass break-ups.
"The `D' did a great job at the end getting those interceptions," Griffin said. "Hats off to UAB for keeping it close at the end and keeping the pedal pressed down. But it was just a great job by the offense overall. Fifty-five points is huge.
"I'll take (the single-game passing record), as long as we win. I was out counting defensive players at the end because I just wanted to win. This is a huge testament to the summer work, spring work, fall work, everything. The o-line, the receivers, the backs, everyone did a great job. It feels good to have (the record) and it feels even better in a win."
The Green Wave defense got their first turnover of the day early in the first when redshirt-freshman defensive end Aaron Bryant pounced on a fumble knocked out by Farley to set up the Tulane offense at their own 29-yard line. Eight plays later, Griffin found Rush down the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass to set the tone for the day.
UAB answered on the ensuing drive when Darrin Reaves plunged in from one-yard out, but Tulane came right back with an eight-play, 75-yard drive which culminated with another Griffin-to-Rush scoring strike - this time for 15 yards - to give the home team a lead it would not relinquish.
Griffin kept things going with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Grant early in the second quarter and junior placekicker Cairo Santos booted a 21-yard field goal with 10:00 to play in the first half to stretch the Tulane lead to 24-7. Following a 25-yard field goal by UAB's Ty Long, Tulane lit up the scoreboard again as Griffin connected with Grant for an eight-yard touchdown pass. UAB closed out the first-half scoring when Austin Brown hooked up with Kennard Backman for a one-yard strike to make it 31-17 at the break.
The Blazers made things interesting early in the third quarter as the defense forced a three-and-out and Reaves once again found the endzone with a two-yard run to make it one-score affair. Tulane answered with Griffin's 16-yard scoring pass to Van Hooser, and a back-and-forth slugfest ensued.
UAB cut the deficit to seven at 38-31 on a Brown-to-Jackie Williams 12 yard touchdown pass, and Darkwa scored from one-yard out on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 45-31. The Blazers came right back 25-yard Reaves touchdown run but following a 32-yard Santos field goal, the Green Wave defense halted a promising UAB drive when Doss picked off Brown at the Tulane 40.
The Blazers held Tulane on fourth down on the Green Wave's next drive, but Doss came up with his second pick on the ensuing possession. On the very next play, Darkwa took a handoff from Griffin and ran 32 yards untouched around the left end to provide Tulane with its final points. UAB made it a 10-point ballgame when Brown found Backman for a 20-yard touchdown with 3:03 left to play and recovered an on-side kick, but the Tulane defense allowed just seven yards over the next four plays to clinch the victory.
"We knew we had to get a stop," Doss said. "If we could just get a stop, our offense could score easily. Julius Warmsley and Coach (Lionel Washington) gave us a speech saying we just needed a stop. We were able to get a three-and-out."
Brown finished the day 26-for-52 for 409 yards and three touchdowns. Reaves led all players with 166 rushing yards and three scores on 21 attempts and paced UAB with seven catches. Williams and Nick Adams both had over 100 receiving yards with respective totals of 143 on six grabs and 119 on five receptions. Marvin Burdette led the Blazers' defense with 24 tackles (16 solo, 8 assists).
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Nov. 3, when they celebrate Homecoming 2012 against Rice. Kickoff for that game is slated for 2:30 p.m. Tickets next weekend's game as well as future Green Wave events are available through 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, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.