Tulane tops Army with last-second drive

Shea Dobson, Sports Editor

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Army marched onto Benson Field at Yulman Stadium Saturday morning in what predictably turned out to be a battle of the backs. In a ground-heavy contest, Tulane squeezed out a touchdown drive at the 11th hour to pull off the 21-17 victory in front of a crowd of 16,643.

The game started in explosive fashion, with Green Wave senior running back Dontrell Hilliard taking it 75 yards to the house on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Tulane quickly took command with a 7-0 lead. Army, both on its first drive and throughout the course of the game, relied solely on the running game to move the chains. Army completed no passes the entire game, but it dominated time of possession with its triple-option offense’s ability to gain first downs.

Tulane held Army scoreless for the first quarter, but a long second quarter drive culminating in a field goal followed by a quick touchdown drive put the Black Knights in command of the game. Tulane quickly responded with a 72-yard run by redshirt senior Sherman Badie, taking the 14-10 lead into the half. Neither of Tulane’s scoring drives lasted longer than one minute.

The third quarter saw no scoring, but Army continued to dominate time of possession and first downs. Army drove into Tulane territory multiple times but either turned the ball over or was forced to punt.

At the start of the fourth quarter, however, Army launched an eight-minute, 15-play drive ending with a 5-yard touchdown run to take a 17-14 lead with 5:32 left in the game. Tulane, which had possessed the ball for fewer than 15 minutes at this point in the game, now had to launch a scoring drive and prevent another long drive from Army.

Tulane started at its own 25-yard line and quickly ran into a 4th down situation at its own 27. With eight yards needed for a first down, quarterback Jonathan Banks, returning from an injury against Navy, scrambled for 10 yards to keep the drive alive, getting hurt again on the play. After sitting out for a down, Banks returned, only for the team to face another 4th down at its own 44-yard line. Banks threw a 13-yard pass to junior receiver Jabril Clewis to keep the drive going and move the Green Wave into enemy territory. Another first down moved Tulane inside the 30-yard line and yet another put the Wave in the red zone before Army finally called a timeout with 1:05 to play.

After an incomplete pass and two runs, Tulane was stalled with a 4th and 1 at the Army 6-yard line. A field goal would have tied the game, but coach Willie Fritz elected to keep the offense on the field. Hilliard ran the ball for two yards to give the Green Wave one more first down. Banks then ran for a four-yard touchdown on the next play to put the Wave on top with 23 seconds to go.

At 5:09, the drive was Tulane’s longest of the day since the first quarter, which ended with a punt.

Army’s last second deep pass attempt was intercepted by Parry Nickerson, sealing the victory for Tulane, putting the Green Wave at 2-2 on the season.

Tulane now has a bye week to celebrate its victory before facing Tulsa at home Oct. 7.