Nov. 27, 2011
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane defense registered two interceptions and a safety and sophomore running back Orleans Darkwa scored two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough as Hawai'i held on for a 35-23 victory in the 2011 season finale for the Green Wave in front of 21,542 at Aloha Stadium.
Tulane completes the season with a 2-11 overall record, while Hawai'i improves to 6-6 overall. The Green Wave played without the services of junior linebacker Trent Mackey, junior cornerback Jordan Sullen and sophomore linebacker/nickleback Dominique Robertson tonight. All three players were held out due to injuries.
"I talked to the team in the locker room after the game and told them that I had been a part of a lot of great teams-- national championship teams-- and those teams never had their character tested like this team when you lose your head coach with six games to go," Tulane head coach Mark Huston said. "You see it with teams across the country when they lose their head coach. They fragment. But that didn't happen with this group. We all, coaching staff included, stayed together and believed in one another despite having a 0-6 record to finish the season. I told each of them how much I appreciate them and wished them the best of success.
"Defensively, I thought we really competed tonight despite being shorthanded. Hawaii has a very explosive offense. With the injuries, we talked all week about how there were opportunities for other players to step up. Zach Davis was one of those players. He had an interception and a safety tonight. My hat's off to these players for working hard and playing hard and finishing the season the right way. Give Hawaii credit. They're a physical and athletic team. When we cut the lead to 28-23, they responded. That's what they do."
Even being shorthanded, the TU defense did its best to keep the Wave in the game. Sophomore Zach Davis came up with an interception, a timely safety and six tackles in his first career start, while junior safety Shakiel Smith netted his first interception of the year.
Despite surrendering 358 passing yards to two Hawai'i quarterbacks, TU's defenders helped ignite a nine point swing and get Tulane back in the game in the fourth quarter.
Tulane was plagued by the turnover bug in the third quarter as junior quarterback Ryan Griffin and Darkwa each threw a pair of interceptions. Griffin's came with under a minute remaining in the quarter and Tulane trailing 28-14. With the Warriors backed up on their own 1-yard line, Davis stuffed UH running back Joey Isoefa in the endzone and the Wave notched its second safety of the year to pull to within 28-16.
Following the safety, Hawai'i booted its free kick to Tulane out of bounds and that set up the Green Wave at the 50-yard line. From there, freshman Robert Kelley led the Wave down to the two-yard line and Darkwa notched his second touchdown of the night to cap a 10-play, 50-yard drive and the Wave trailed 28-23 with 11:42 remaining in the contest.
But as they had all night, the Warriors wasted little time in responding to the Tulane threat. Hawai'i marched down the field and on fourth and goal from the one inch line Isoefa took a quick pitch and found the endzone to give UH a two-score, 35-23, advantage with 7:03 remaining. The drive went 71 yards in 10 plays and marked Isoefa's second touchdown of the night. Hawai'i forced the Wave into a three and out on its next possession and ran out the clock to win the game.
"First, it was important for us to stay focus since we're in Hawaii and there are a lot of distractions," Kelley said. "I thought we did a good job of doing that and came out tonight and fought and played hard. I saw great effort tonight from everyone, but we just came up short."
Kelley led the Wave with a career-high 92 yards on 16 carries, while Darkwa added 71 yards on 20 carries. Griffin managed just 12 completions on 28 attempts for 102 yards. Sophomore Brent Comardelle led the Wave with four receptions for 54 yards. Kelley also added 62 kickoff return yards to finish with 154 all-purpose yards. Defensively, freshman Matthew Bailey, senior Taylor Echols, Zach Davis, Smith and junior Darryl Farley each finished with six tackles to lead the Wave.
The Wave defenders also charted six pass break-ups, four forced fumbles, three hurries and registered two sacks, including one by senior Dezman Moses. Moses finished the season with 9.5 sacks, which ranks third on TU's single season list.
Tulane won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Hawai'i then took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for the first points of the game when Warrior quarterback David Graves completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Davis to cap a six play, 69-yard drive.
The two teams traded a pair of punts before the Green Wave found the endzone for the first time. Senior Albert Williams took a pitch and was headed around the right end but the Hawai'i defense had filled the lane. Alertly, Williams changed direction and ran around the left end for an 11-yard touchdown. The five play, 44-yard drive was set up in large part to Kelley's 24-yard scamper that put the Wave in the redzone for the first time.
The Warriors wasted little time in regaining the lead. On the ensuing possession, Graves led UH down the field and needed just four plays to find the endzone again. Following a 45-yard pass to Billy Ray Stutzmann, Graves then hooked up with Jeremiah Ostrowski for 18 yards to move the ball to the Tulane 15-yard line. Graves then used his legs on the next play and ran untouched for a 15-yard touchdown to cap the 78-yard drive and put UH up 14-7 with 2:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Tulane responded to the Hawai'i score at the 11:37 mark of the second quarter when Darkwa scored his 12th rushing touchdown of the season from one-yard out to complete a 13-play, 68-yard drive and tie the score at 14-14. Darkwa's touchdown total this season ranks second all-time on the school's single season list.
Hawaii answered minutes later when it converted a fourth down and three plays later Iosefa plunged over the goal line from one-yard out to regain the lead for the home team, 21-14. Isoefa's score capped off a 12-play, 74 yards drive for the Warriors.
Sophomore kick returner Jamar Thomas did his best to put Tulane near the redzone when he returned a kick-off 66 yards to put the Wave in business at the Hawaii 26-yard line. But four plays later, sophomore kicker Cairo Santos' 39-yard field goal was wide right and Tulane left empty handed.
The Tulane defense turned back a pair of drives when two interceptions. The first came Zach Davis but the TU offense then went three and out.
Following a TU punt, Hawai'i took the ball across midfield with less than a minute remaining, but Graves overthrew his receiver and junior safety Shakiel Smith came up with his first pick of the year.
"We had two interceptions and a safety and we put everything we had into the game tonight," Smith said. "We didn't have anything to lose and even though we didn't have several starters in the line-up tonight we put all our belief in the back ups and we had some players step up and make some plays tonight."
With little time remaining Griffin completed a pair of strikes to Comardelle and led the Wave down to the 23-yard line. But the drive stalled and Santos' 40-yard field goal attempt with 0:03 remaining in the first half was blocked and the teams entered the locker room with Hawai'i leading 21-14.
Early in the third quarter, Hawai'i extended its lead when Graves completed a seven play, 66-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Davis, his second scoring reception of the night, and the Warriors led 28-14.
Iosefa led the Warriors on the ground with 65 yards on 12 carries, while Graves threw for 260 yards on 21-of-38 attempts and a pair of scores. Trevor Davis and Royce Pollard each grabbed a game-high seven receptions. Corey Paredes finished with a game-best 13 tackles on the night.