Sept. 16, 2006
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Junior running back Matt Forté ran for 170 yards and a touchdown, and senior quarterback Lester Ricard completed 16-of-23 passes for 298 yards and four scores, as the Tulane University football team upended Mississippi State, 32-29, Saturday evening at Davis Wade Stadium.
Tulane jumped out to a 32-7 lead after three quarters of play, but the Bulldogs clawed back into the game with a 22-point fourth quarter. The Green Wave were able to hang on and evened its 2006 record at 1-1. Mississippi State, meanwhile, falls to 0-3. With the win, the Green Wave snapped a nine-game losing streak and claimed its first win over an SEC opponent on the road since Nov. 18, 1989 when Tulane defeated Vanderbilt, 31-13, in Nashville, Tenn.
"This was a good win for our program," Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo said. "To come on the road and win in an SEC environment for the firs time since 1989, it has been a long time. To be able to do that is a tremendous tribute to these players."
The Green Wave held a 25-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter, but left the door open for the Bulldogs as Tulane had a field goal blocked and missed a pair of PATs. Mississippi State scored touchdowns on all three of its possessions in the frame, including a touchdown and two-point conversion run by quarterback Omarr Connor - who started the game at wide receiver before getting the call to go under center midway through the second quarter - to cut the lead to three with 1:45 left in the ballgame.
Junior tight end Gabe Ratcliff recovered the ensuing on-side kick attempt, Forté followed with a 12-yard run up the middle and the Green Wave were able to run out the clock.
"We were very disappointed in the game last weekend," Scelfo said. "Not to say we cold have won the game, but the way we played last week was not very characteristic of the kind of game these boys can play. They had a lot of pride at stake.
"To go out there against a very physical football team and go toe to toe with them is a good accomplishment for us. We might have surprised them a little bit, coming out the way we did. If they watched the film of our game last week, they didn't see the team that played today."
Lost in the fourth-quarter hype was the overall play of the Green Wave defense. Tulane held Mississippi State to just one first down in the first quarter - and that came via penalty - and held the Bulldogs scoreless in the period. For the game, the Green Wave held the Bulldogs to just 98 yards rushing and 350 total yards of offense on the day. One hundred and sixty four of Mississippi State's total yards came in the fourth quarter.
Tulane also forced a pair of turnovers - while committing none - as junior defensive tackle Avery Williams recovered a fumble and senior cornerback Jeremy Foreman picked off a pass and returned it 49 yards to set up a Green Wave score.
The Green Wave got off to a good start as Ricard connected with junior wideout Kenneth Guidroz for an eight-yard touchdown strike to cap the opening drive, and Tulane added to its lead less then five minutes into the second quarter when Ricard hooked up with junior running back Ray Boudreux from 27 yards out to make it 14-0.
The Tulane defense stymied Mississippi State for most of the first half, but the Bulldogs changed quarterbacks - pulling starter Tray Rutland in favor of Conner - and Connor responded by driving the Bulldogs 41 yards on nine plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Anthony Dixon to cut the lead in half with 2:58 left to play in the first half.
The score remained that way until halftime, but Tulane scored on its first three possessions of the second half as Ricard connected with senior wide receiver Damarcus Davis and sophomore wideout Brian King from six and 47 yards away, respectively, and Forté punched one in from one yard away to give the Green Wave a 32-7 advantage.
What seemed like a sizeable lead began evaporating quickly early in the fourth quarter, however, as the Bulldogs turned a botched punt attempt into a nine-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Marcus Washington, and Arnil Stallworth capped a four-play, 87-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run to cut the Tulane lead to 12 and set up the late-game dramatics.
Davis was one of nine Tulane receivers to catch a pass on the day, and led the team with four catches for 90 yards. Senior tight end Jerome Landry was next with three grabs for 24 yards, while Ratcliff and redshirt-freshman wideout Chris Dunn followed with two catches each for 58 and 32 yards, respectively.
Junior defensive back Joe Goosby and senior cornerback Israel Route led the Green Wave defense with seven tackles each, and junior defensive end Antonio Harris paced the squad with one and a half tackles for loss - including a sack 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The Green Wave return to action on Saturday, Sept. 23, when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on arch-rival LSU at 7 p.m. at Tiger Stadium. The game against the Tigers is the last of three straight road games to open the 2006 season before the Green Wave open the home portion of their schedule on Sept. 30 against Conference USA foe SMU.
Season and single-game tickets for the 2006 season are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. Tickets can be purchased in person, via the telephone at (504) 861-WAVE or via the internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com. In addition, single-game tickets are also available via Ticket Master at www.TicketMaster.com and at all Ticket Master outlets.