Nov. 28, 2009
DALLAS-Senior running back André Anderson ran for 105 yards and a touchdown to become just the fourth player in Green Wave history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, but it was not enough as the Tulane University football team fell to Conference USA foe SMU, 26-21, Saturday afternoon at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
Tulane rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to take a 21-20 lead with 10:06 left to play in regulation. The Mustangs, however, used a nine-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to take a five-point lead and held off a late Green Wave rally to come away with the win. With the loss, Tulane concludes the 2009 season 3-9 overall and 1-7 in C-USA play. SMU, meanwhile, improves to 7-5 overall and 6-2 in league play.
"I thought this was a good football game," Tulane head football coach Bob Toledo said. "I thought we played very hard and never gave up or quit. They made a few more plays in the end and that's what got us. It was back-and-forth. They made some adjustments and we made some adjustments.
"We just didn't make enough plays. We made a couple of mistakes in the secondary and they made us pay for it. The scoreboard just didn't come out on the right side for us."
Down by five with 1:53 to play, Tulane called a timeout to prepare for its third-and-three situation from the SMU 47 yard line. A false start and an offensive pass interference penalty, however, pushed the Green Wave back to their own 34 and a pair of incomplete passes gave the ball back to the Mustangs.
SMU ran the ball four straight times to milk the clock down to 11 seconds and Tulane had a chance to do something as the Green Wave took over the ball at their won 25. Redshirt-freshman quarter Ryan Griffin connected with junior wideout Casey Robottom for a seven-yard gain, but the ball squirted free, SMU recovered and the Mustangs took a knee to click down the game's final two seconds.
Griffin had another solid day under center, completing 18-of-26 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scoring strikes went to senior wide receiver Jeremy Williams, who hauled in five passes for 74 yards. Robottom tied Williams for team-high reception honors and finished the day with 59 yards. Anderson, meanwhile, added three catches for 23 yards to post 128 all-purpose yards in the losing effort.
Both teams scored on their opening possessions to create what looked to be a shootout. SMU took the first-half kickoff and marched 80 yards down the field and on the 11th play of the drive, Shwanbrey McNeal found paydirt from two yards out to give the Mustangs a 7-0 lead.
Tulane responded by going 68 yards on 13 plays, capped by a five-yard Griffin-to-Williams pass to tie things up. The Green Wave forced a field goal on the Mustangs' ensuing possession to make it a 10-7 ballgame, and a 75-yard pass from Kyle Padron to Emmanuel Sanders set up a three-yard touchdown run by Zach Line to stretch the SMU advantage to 17-7 at the break.
The second half started with a bang for the Green Wave as Williams returned the kickoff 39 yards, Anderson ran for six and Griffin found Williams in the endzone from 46 yards out to cut the SMU lead down to three. SMU added a 37-yard Matt Szymanski field goal two drives later to push its advantage back to six and it remained a 20-14 affair at the conclusion of the third quarter.
SMU tried to pad its lead with another Szymanski kick, but his 58-yard attempt with a strong wind at his back was wide left and Tulane took over in good field position at their own 41. Griffin found a streaking Brock Sanders down the middle for a 29-yard gain on the next play from scrimmage and Andrerson capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run around left end to give Tulane a 21-20 lead.
The advantage, however, was short lived as SMU answered with a nine-play, 68-yard drive which culminated with a four-yard McNeal touchdown jaunt with 5:23 left to play to account for what proved to be the final score.
"I am very disappointed that we didn't win more football games this season and I'm disappointed that we didn't win for our seniors, but I think we made some end roads," Toledo said. "We had 19 freshmen on this trip and most of them played and gave them game experience and hopefully that will carry over to the future."
Freshman linebacker Shakiel Smith led the Green Wave with 10 tackles while fellow rookie Devon Walker was next with a career-high seven stops. Senior defensive end Logan Kelley had one of Tulane's two sacks.
McNeal led all players with 147 rushing yards on 26 carries while Padron completed 20-of-34 passes for 264 yards.