Nov. 10, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - Sophomore running back Orleans Darkwa ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football dropped a 73-17 decision to No. 11 Houston in Conference USA action Thursday evening at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie over the first 16-plus minutes of the contest before the Cougars broke the game open with 35 points in the second quarter. With the loss, Tulane falls to 2-9 on the year and 1-6 in C-USA play. Houston, meanwhile, remains undefeated at 10-0 and now stands 6-0 in league action.
"In previous games, we held (running backs) from the big plays," Tulane interim head coach Mark Hutson said. "Certainly, that was not the case tonight....They were able to hit some deep shots, ones they hit various times in the year. Those were because of coverages. We didn't provide coverage with their tempo. We checked with their checks. They would see a blitz and we would check out of it, they would check out of a play. It worked well at times. At times, it didn't. Their receivers, I watched the replays, made unbelievable catches. My hat goes off to them. They're talented, we knew that coming in, and they displayed that tonight."
While Darkwa hit the century mark for the second time in 2011, Cougar running back Charles Sims was even better as he had 199 of his 207 rushing yards in the first half. Sims had two of Houston's four touchdowns on the ground and also hauled in five passes for another 96 yards through the air. Patrick Edwards, meanwhile, had four touchdowns for the Cougars, three on receptions of 23, eight and 66 yards and another on a 70-yard, second-quarter punt return.
Houston rolled up 735 yards of total offense on the night - 292 rushing and 443 passing - and the bulk of the aerial attack came courtesy of Case Keenum, who finished the day 22-of-29 for 325 yards and three touchdowns before exiting the game late in the third quarter. Edwards and Justin Johnson each had five catches to lead Houston for 129 and 96 yards, respectively.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars wasted little time getting on the board in the second as Bryce Beall capped a four-play, 89-yard drive with an 11-yard run 1:12 into the stanza to give Houston a 7-0 lead it would not relinquish. Edwards' 70-yard punt return made it 14-0, but Tulane answered with a four-play 80-yard drive - which included a career-long 68-yard jaunt by Darkwa - and the native of Nashville, Tenn., hit pay dirt from three yards out to make it a one-score game.
Houston squashed any hopes of an upset as Sims ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run and Keenum sandwiched a pair of touchdown passes around a Cairo Santos 42-yard field goal to make it 35-10 at the half.
Matt Hogan added to the Cougar tally with a 23-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter. Following consecutive touchdown grabs by Edwards, Chance Blackmon hauled in a 27-yard scoring strike from back-up quarterback Cotton Turner to extend the lead to 59-10 at the end of the third quarter.
Darkwa found the endzone for the second time with 12:53 left to play in regulation to cut the deficit to 42, but that was as close as Tulane would get as Turner scored on a 35-yard scramble and Damian Payne returned a punt 76 yards for a score to account for the final score.
Junior linebacker Trent Mackey led the Green Wave defense with nine stops (8 solo, 1 assist) and fellow junior linebacker Darryl Farley was next with six (5 solo, 1 assist). Safeties Derrick Strozier and Shakiel Smith each had a pass break-up and defensive linemen Austen Jacks and Julius Warmsley both had sacks.
Marcus McGraw paced Houston with nine stops (8 solo, 1 assist) and was one of four Cougar defenders with a tackle for loss. Thomas Bates had three of Houston's 10 pass break-ups and Phillip Stewart added an interception to halt the Green Wave's opening drive.
Tulane returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 19, when the Green Wave travels to Houston for a C-USA showdown at Rice. From there, Tulane closes out the 2011 season on Nov. 26 at Hawai'i.