Nov. 5, 2011
DALLAS - The Green Wave scored a season-best 24 points in the third quarter, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 45-24 decision to Conference USA foe SMU on Saturday afternoon at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
After being held to 39 yards on 6-of-11 passing in the first half, junior Ryan Griffin bounced back to complete 14-of-25 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. With 214 passing yards on the day, Griffin now has 5,853 career passing yards and moves ahead of Roch Hontas for sixth place in the Tulane record book.
The Mustangs (6-3, 4-2 C-USA), however, used a 31-point first half to build a comfortable lead and held Tulane (2-8, 1-5 C-USA) scoreless in the final quarter to come away with the win.
"We came together in the second half and I thought our coaches did a good job of rallying our players," Tulane interim head coach Mark Hutson said. "We called them up and told them we had too much character and too much pride for this. Thirty-one to nothing is not who we are. We wanted them to go out, not look at the scoreboard and take the second half play by play and just battle.
"I'm disappointed with the first half, but proud of our effort in the second half. The game could have really gotten away from us in the second half, but we went out and competed. We cut it to a two-score game and when we going down and Ryan scrambled for the first down we thought we could eventually make it a one-score game and make things very interesting."
Trailing 31-0 at halftime, Tulane got things going early in the second half as sophomore linebacker Dominique Robertson returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter to put the Wave on the board. Tulane added a 42-yard Cairo Santos field goal and Griffin found sophomore Wilson Van Hooser for a 30-yard touchdown strike with 7:43 to play in the quarter to make it 31-17.
SMU answered with a 10-play, 76-yard drive which Zach Line capped with a seven-yard touchdown run, but Tulane came right back as Griffin hit rookie Justyn Shackleford for a 49-yard score to make it 38-24 in the waning seconds of the stanza.
The Green Wave had a chance to make it a one-score affair early in the final frame, but Griffin fumbled on a fourth-and-five play from the SMU 28. The Mustangs put the game away two drives later when J.J. McDermott connected with Terrance Wilkerson from two yards out with 1:39 left to play to account for the final score.
Junior linebacker Trent Mackey led all players with 12 tackles (9 solo, 3 assists) and had a sack among three tackles for loss. Robertson was next with eight stops (7 solo, 1 assist) and junior cornerback Jordan Sullen broke up a career-high three passes.
Freshman Xavier Rush led the Green Wave receiving corps with six receptions (for 52 yards) while Van Hooser had five catches for a team-leading 66 yards, including his 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Sophomore Orleans Darkwa led Tulane with 46 rushing yards on 16 carries.
The first half was all SMU as the Mustangs turned a Tulane turnover on the game's opening possession into a four-yard Line touchdown run. SMU added a 12-yard J.J. Merdermott-to-Der'rikk Thompson touchdown pass later in the frame and scored 17 more points in the second quarter courtesy of a 32-yard Chase Hover field goal, a 58-yard McDermott pass to Darius Johnson and a one-yard touchdown jaunt by line.
"SMU had struggled the past two weeks and they came out hot," Hutson said. "Defensively, we couldn't get them off the field. They converted their third downs and we didn't even make them punt (in the first half). Their tailback rushed for over 100 yards and offensively we were able to make one or two runs, but we couldn't convert our third down opportunities. Give their defense and offense credit, both sides executed."
McDermott completed 29-of-40 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite targets on the day were Johnson and Wilkerson, who had seven receptions apiece for 135 and 44 yards, respectively. Line led all players with 143 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 25 totes.
Ja'Gared Davis and Justin Sorrell shared team-high tackle honors for the Mustangs with six each (5 solo, 1 assist). Davis had two sacks and Sorrell had a pair of pass break-ups.
Tulane returns to action on Thursday, Nov. 12, when the Wave play host to Houston in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised live nationally on the CBS College Sports Network.
The contest against the Cougars will be the final regular-season contest of the year and the program will honor its 12-member senior class and the dozen will be honored in a special ceremony prior to kickoff. From there, the Wave will play at Rice on Nov. 19 before closing out the season on Nov. 26 at Hawai'i.
Single-game tickets for the Houston 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.