Nov. 10, 2007
NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Senior running back Matt Forté ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns and sophomore wideout Jeremy Williams had eight catches for 188 yards and two scores as the Tulane University football team celebrated "Senior Day 2007" by defeating Conference USA foe UTEP, 34-19, Saturday evening at the Louisiana Superdome.
Williams' receiving yardage was a career high and ranked ninth-highest in Green Wave single-season history. Forté, meanwhile, posted his sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing day and seventh of the season to give him 1,813 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. With the win, Tulane improves to 3-7 on the year and 2-4 in C-USA play. UTEP, meanwhile, falls to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in league action.
"I'm really, really happy for the seniors," Tulane head coach Bob Toledo said. "We all got up last night in our senior meeting and talked about what it means to be here at Tulane. It was kind of a special time. I told them, `You have to play for pride and self respect,' and I think our entire football team did that tonight.
"We went from last week, not playing well in any phase, to playing very well in all three phases against a good football team tonight. I was pleased with the way we ran the football. I think Jeremy Williams had an excellent game. I'm proud of the way we're building this thing. We're taking little steps but I think we're headed in the right direction."
The Wave wasted little time jumping on the Miners, taking the opening kickoff 80 yards down the field and capping the nine-play drive with a 43-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Anthony Scelfo to Williams less than four minutes into the ballgame.
The defense allowed UTEP to make a long drive on its first possession, but Lou Groza candidate Jose Martinez missed a 35-yard field goal. Following a punt by each team, Tulane capped the first-quarter scoring with a 36-yard field goal by sophomore Ross Thevenot to make it a 10-0 ballgame.
Tulane pushed the lead to 17 when redshirt-freshman quarterback Kevin Moore connected with Williams for a 23-yard touchdown pass, but the Miners came right back with a three-play, 74-yard drive on the ensuing possession as Marcus Thomas scored on a 59-yard jaunt down the right side of the field to make it 17-7.
UTEP cut the lead to seven with a 42-yard Martinez kick with 6:20 remaining in the first half, and Tulane went into the locker room at half time ahead by a touchdown.
The Miners opened the second half with a 39-yard drive and appeared ready to cut the lead to four as Martinez lined up for a 30-yard field goal. UTEP head coach Mike Price, however, reached into his bag of tricks and called for a fake, but senior cornerback Carlis Jackson sacked reserve quarterback Kyle Wright for a 14-yard loss to thwart the Miners' scoring opportunity.
After dodging a bullet, Toledo went to his book of trick plays as well as sophomore running back André Anderson turned a fourth-down punting situation into a turning point in the ballgame with a 43 yard rush on a direct snap to the upback. The fake punt kept the Green Wave drive alive, and Forté capped the 11-play, 70-yard effort with a one-yard touchdown plunge up the middle to stake the Green Wave to a 24-10 lead.
UTEP answered with a 21-yard Martinez field goal on the ensuing possession, but Tulane came right back with a five-play, 74-yard drive capped by a four-yard Forté run to make it a 31-13 ballgame. UTEP cut the lead to 12 when Trevor Vittatoe connected with Jeff Moturi for a 12-yard touchdown with 9:16 left to play, but Tulane answered with a 20-yard field goal by Thevenot to account for the final score.
The Miners had a chance to make things interesting down the stretch, but junior free safety David Skehan ended one UTEP drive with an interception - his fourth of the year - and the Tulane defense held on fourth-and-six one possession later to send the Green Wave seniors out in style.
Tulane tallied 277 passing yards on the day against UTEP, the second-highest output of the season. Scelfo led the way with 167 yards and a touchdown on 7-of-11 passing, while Moore posted career-high numbers with nine completions on 10 attempts for 167 yards and a score.
"(Toledo) coached better than I did," Price said. "I thought we had a good mental framework coming in here and had a lot to play for. The kids wanted to play. All (Tulane) had to do was play for pride. They certainly did a good job of that. We definitely intended to stop (Forté). The play-action pass killed us. Playing the ball in the air, we didn't come down with it. Their receivers play tremendously. Their quarterback(s) threw the ball well. We didn't execute."
Thomas ran for 124 yards and a touchdown and led UTEP with seven catches for 68 yards. Vittatoe, meanwhile, led all players with 308 yards on 28-of-43 passing.
Senior defensive end Antonio Harris paced the Green Wave defense with seven tackles (four solo, three assists) while senior defensive back Joe Goosby and junior weak-side linebacker Jordan Ellis followed with six tackles apiece. Da'Mon Cromartie-Smith, Adam Vincent and Braxton Amy each posted 13 tackles for the Miners.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Nov. 17, with a 2 p.m. C-USA showdown at Rice before closing out the 2007 season on Nov. 24 at East Carolina. Both games will be broadcast on the Tulane ISP Sports Network (local station, WIST AM 690) and both live audio and video are available via the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com to registered members of the All-Access Pass. Live stats are also available free of charge on the official website of Tulane Athletics.