Dec. 22, 2013
NEW ORLEANS - Tulane senior running back Orleans Darkwa scored three touchdowns and was named game MVP, but the Green Wave came up short in its comeback bid and fell 24-21 to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette before a record crowd of 54,728 in the 2013 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Tulane (7-6) trailed by three points and had one last chance to tie or win the game. Following a ULL punt, the Green Wave took possession of the ball on its own five-yard line with 1:35 remaining.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Powell misfired on his first two pass attempts but found junior receiver Justyn Shackleford for a 34-yard gain on third down. Powell kept his composure and found senior receiver Ryan Grant and redshirt freshman receiver Kedrick Banks on back-to-back plays to move the Wave to the ULL 25-yard line. Powell was then sacked and TU called its final timeout.
Senior kicker Cairo Santos came on to the field to attempt a 48-yard field goal and tie the game, but his kick sailed wide left and UL-Lafayette (9-4) celebrated their third straight R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl victory.
Darkwa finished the game with 83 yards on 16 carries and became the first player on a losing team to receive the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl MVP award. Grant grabbed seven receptions for 113 yards, while Powell was 10-of-21 for 223 yards and one interception. Junior safety Sam Scofield finished with 10 tackles to lead the Wave, while senior defensive tackle Julius Warmsley and sophomore defensive back Jordan Batiste each recorded a pair of quarterback sacks.
"For three quarters of the game, I thought we played pretty well," Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson. "The penalties and turnovers really hurt us. The effort was great and we made a great comeback. We'll get it next year."
"Cairo made them (field goals) all last year. This year, after the tragedy where he lost his father in a plane crash, he hasn't been the same. If we had to do it again, though, we'd do it the same way (on whether to run another play before the field goal attempt). We got beat on the previous play and I didn't want to take a sack. I thought we did the right thing. Cairo's made those before. It just didn't fall for him this time," Johnson added.
Tulane tied the game late in the third quarter following its second interception of the game courtesy of senior cornerback Derrick Strozier. On third and six from its own 33-yard line, ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway was flushed out of the pocket and looked to be headed out of bounds. However, at the last second Broadway attempted a pass and Strozier found himself in the right place at the right time.
Strozier grabbed the errant pass and returned the pick 20 yards, setting the Green Wave up just outside the Ragin' Cajun 20-yard line. On the next play, Darkwa ran 22 yards untouched into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown of the game and tied the contest at 21 apiece.
With the momentum swung in Tulane's favor, the Green Wave defense forced ULL to punt which was fair caught at the Tulane three-yard line. On the first play, Powell was forced out of the pocket and threw an ill-advised pass which was intercepted by UL-Lafayette's Sean Thomas, his second of the game.
The Ragin' Cajun offense were unable to reach the end zone and Hunter Stover drilled a 27-yard field goal to give ULL a 24-21 lead with 9:56 remaining, and what proved to be the difference maker.
ULL jumped on the Green Wave early and turned two turnovers into 14 points and led 21-0 with just 12:31 gone by in the second quarter. Powell came in for junior quarterback Nick Montana and rallied Tulane with 21 unanswered points.
After Tulane went three and out on its opening possession, UL-Lafayette went 65 yards in six plays, primarily on the ground, and capped off the drive with a 27-yard touchdown by Elijah McGuire to take a 7-0 lead.
The teams traded possessions and Tulane looked good on its third possession of the game with a march near midfield, but Grant's pass attempt Shackleford on a trick play was intercepted by Thomas. The Ragin' Cajuns made the most of Tulane's miscue by going 73 yards six plays and Alonzo Harris ran right up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to put the home team up 14-0 with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
The turnover bug struck the Green Wave again as it was in the midst of its best drive of the game. The Wave had the ball on third and three at the ULL 18, but Montana's pass to junior tight end Sydie London was intercepted by Corey Trim and returned 82 yards for a touchdown to extend the Ragin' Cajuns lead to 21-0.
Tulane finally got on the board late in the second quarter when Darkwa punched the ball into the end zone from one-yard out at 3:55 showing on the clock. The score capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive with the key play of the drive coming on a 41-yard strike on fourth and two play near midfield from Powell to redshirt freshman receiver Devin Breaux.
On ULL's ensuing possession, Broadway's pass on a third and 17 was intercepted by Tulane senior cornerback Jordan Sullen. Powell then came on and engineered a three-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in Darkwa's second touchdown of the game from seven yards out. The scored drew Tulane to within a touchdown, 21-14, with 1:58 remaining before the half.
Powell was key once again in the passing game. He threw a 49-yard bomb to Grant, who was double covered but outmuscled a pair of Ragin' Cajun defenders for the catch.