Nov. 14, 2009
HOUSTON--Senior running back André Anderson ran for 135 yards and senior wide receiver Jeremy Williams caught 10 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team dropped a 28-20 decision to Conference USA foe Rice Saturday afternoon at Rice Stadium.
The Green Wave led 14-0 after the first quarter, but the Owls stormed back with a touchdown in the second quarter, two in the third and a game-sealing touchdown with 54 seconds left to play. With the loss, Tulane falls to 3-7 on the year and 1-5 in C-USA play. Rice, meanwhile, improves to 1-9 overall and 1-5 in league action.
"You have two very similar football teams playing and going into the game statistically we were so close in all categories and we're both young football teams," Tulane head football coach Bob Toledo said. "They performed better at times than we did. We blew some coverages in the secondary and we didn't run the ball as well as we liked to. That's a credit to them. We got another punt blocked and they scored, and we missed an extra point that our holder dropped. We put ourselves behind the eight ball quite a bit today."
Tulane came out of the gate on fire, tallying 157 yards of total offense in the first quarter while limiting the Owls to just 22 yards on nine plays in the opening stanza. From there, however, Rice posted 309 yards of total offense and held the Green Wave to just 245 yards over the final 45 minutes. Along the way, Rice forced a turnover and blocked a punt to set up what proved to be the winning points.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback Ryan Griffin had a solid day under center, completing 24-of-41 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Down the stretch, the Rice defense proved to be the difference in the ballgame as the Owls forced incompletions on each of Griffin's final 10 passes.
While Williams was the favorite target on the day, junior wideout Casey Robottom hauled in eight passes for the third straight game and finished with 91 yards and a score.
Junior weak-side linebacker Travis Burks led the Tulane defense with nine tackles (six solo, three assists) while junior free safety Alex Wacha was next with eight (three solo, five assists). Senior defensive end Logan Kelley had the team's lone sack, giving him 13 for his career which is tied for sixth in Tulane history along with Dennis O'Sullivan (1995-98) and Jay Rink (1988-90).
Tulane opened the scoring, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards on 13 plays when Griffin found Williams from six yards out to put the Green Wave on top 7-0. Following a punt by each team, the Wave went 68 yards in seven plays, capped by an eight-yard Griffin-to-Williams scoring strike to give Tulane a 14-0 led with 1:19 left to play in the first quarter.
Rice had an answer in the second quarter, cutting the deficit in half when Nick Fanuzzi connected with Toren Dixon from 32 yards out 2:49 into the stanza. The Owls had a chance to tie things up on their next drive, getting down to the Tulane eight before electing to try a 25-yard field goal. Clark Fangmeier's kick sailed wide right, however, and the Green Wave went into the locker room on top by seven.
As Tulane did to start the game, the Owls came out in the second half firing on all cylinders. After Chris Jammer returned the kickoff 26 yards, it took Rice just two plays to tie the game as Fanuzzi hit Dixon on a 70-yard touchdown bomb.
The Owl defense forced Tulane to punt on its ensuing possession, and Justin Hill got a hand on senior Ross Thevenot's attempt and deflected it backward to the Green Wave 25. To plays later, Fanuzzi hit Pierre Beasley for a 17-yard touchdown to take a 21-14 lead the Owls would not relinquish.
Rice pinned Tulane at its own two-yard line late in the third quarter , but the Green Wave drove 98 yards on six plays to make things interesting. Griffin capped the drive with a 31-yard scoring strike to Robottom to make it 21-20, but Thevenot never got a chance to tie the game as the PAT snap from John Edwards to holder D.J. Ponder was bobbled and a kick was never attempted.
The Green Wave defense kept Tulane in the game, but the offense could not get anything going late. Following a three-and-out by Rice, Tulane's ensuing drive stalled at the 50 and a 35-yard Thevenot punt had Rice inside its own 15. The Tulane defense gave up a pair of first downs, but forced another punt to give Tulane perhaps one last chance.
A 41-yard punt by Mark Brundage gave the Green Wave the ball at their own 29, but four straight incompletions tuned the ball over without gaining a yard. Rice could not move the ball either and faced fourth-and-10 from the 30 with 1:00 left to play. Following a timeout, the Owls decided to try to convert the first down rather than attempt a long field goal, and the gamble paid off as Dixon hauled in his third touchdown of the day to account for the final score.
Fazunni completed 15-of-25 passes for 214 yards and four touchdowns and Charles Ross ran for 90 yards on 17 attempts. Dixon had seven catches for 158 yards and three touchdowns. Travis Bradshaw led all players with 15 tackles (11 solo, four assists) while Cheta Ozougwu was next with six solo stops, including a sack and two tackles for loss.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Nov. 21, when they travel to Orlando, Fla. to take on Conference USA foe UCF at 1 p.m. (CST). Tulane closes out the 2009 season on Nov. 28 at SMU.