Tulane pulls off late win over Houston to remain in bowl contention

Tulane Football defeated Houston 20-17 to advance to 5-6 on the season and keep its bowl hopes alive.

After an initial touchback, Tulane quickly picked up a first down after a strike from junior quarterback Jonathan Banks to junior wide receiver Terren Encalade. However, that was all the Green Wave could muster for the first drive. Tulane would punt on the next set of downs and after an initial holding penalty against the Houston Cougars, sophomore quarterback D’Eriq King punished the Green Wave with a 46-yard carry. Tulane and Houston proceeded to trade penalties in the red zone before Tulane came up with a huge stop, forcing the Cougars to settle for a field goal.

The Green Wave ended up evening the score at three after a kick by sophomore kicker Merek Glover. On the ensuing kickoff, junior linebacker Lawrence Graham made an excellent tackle pinning Houston on their own six-yard line. His helmet flew off on the hit, however, and he remained on the ground for an extended period of time. The game resumed after Graham was carted off the field and into an ambulance. Houston drove the ball with two deep passes as the Tulane secondary continued to surrender big plays in the first quarter.

Tulane held for four plays in the red zone and took over at its own six-yard line to begin the drive. Banks continued to target Encalade, hitting him through four defenders to keep the chains moving. Later in the drive, sophomore running back Darius Bradwell went on a bruising 12-yard run to get the Green wave deep in Houston territory. Tulane would go 94 yards in a 13-play drive capped off by a touchdown from senior running back Sherman Badie as he bounced a run to the outside for a 16-yard score.

The Tulane secondary improved on the next drive with three consecutive plays made to force a Houston punt. Tulane got close to the one-yard line on the drive but was pushed back to the 6-yard line after a false start. Unable to get into the end zone, Tulane kicked a field goal to go into halftime with a 13-3 lead. Encalade finished the first half with five catches for 101 yards, while Houston’s King went into halftime with 84 rushing yards on only five carries.

The Cougars came out roaring in the second half, making play after play. They advanced well into the Green Wave red zone. Tulane senior cornerback Parry Nickerson ended Houston’s hopes for a touchdown with a diving interception in the end zone. After trading punts between the two teams, a miscommunication between Banks and his receiver resulted in an interception and a huge return for the Cougars. King punished the Green Wave once again, taking a shotgun snap 33 yards for a score. The fourth quarter began with Tulane up 13-10.

After a failed Tulane drive to begin the fourth an outstanding punt from junior punter Zachary Block pinned Houston on its own six-yard line. Houston was not fazed by the far field position and drove down the Tulane field efficiently. The drive was highlighted by senior Houston receiver Steven Dunbar when he made a diving catch for a 23-yard gain, despite being smothered by Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson. To end the drive, King continued to weave his way through the Tulane defense en route to a 16-yard score on the ground, his second of the game.

Tulane got the ball back with 6:50 remaining and quickly made use of it. Banks once again found Encalade, who caught a slant over the middle and beat the entire Houston defense in a foot race to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown. With the extra point, the Green Wave took a 20-17 lead. Houston got back into Tulane territory but failed to convert on a fourth down, giving the ball back to the Green Wave. Only needing one more first down to have enough time to run out the clock, Banks avoided pressure and found Encalade on the near sideline. After a Tulane timeout, Banks knelt for three consecutive plays to give Tulane the 20-17 victory over the Houston Cougars.