Green Wave falls to Cincinnati, eliminated from bowl game contention

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Tulane football
Quarterback Kai Horton got his first collegiate start after injuries to Michael Pratt and Justin Ibieta (Parker Waters)

Tulane football lost to the second-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats 31-12 in a hard-fought game at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans. In a much improved defensive display from last week, the Green Wave were within striking distance for most of the game before the Bearcats opened the game up late in the fourth quarter. With this loss, Tulane is now 1-7 on the season, officially eliminated from postseason play.

Tulane entered the game without starting quarterback Michael Pratt and backup Justin Ibieta, both out with injuries. Freshman Kai Horton made his first collegiate start, going 7-16 for 79 yards with two interceptions and taking four sacks.

Tulane opened the game with a long drive, which ended in a punt that pinned the Bearcats at the 1-yard line. Despite this, Cincinnati drove 99 yards for a touchdown, finishing when quarterback Desmond Ridder found Josh Whyle in the back of the endzone. 

Tulane began the second quarter with another long drive before punting again. Cincinnati was again pinned deep, this time starting at their own 8-yard line. After two incomplete passes, the Bearcats took a safety when Ridder was sacked in the back of his own endzone.

On the ensuing possession, Tulane scored their only touchdown of the game when Tyjae Spears’ 47-yard run put the Green Wave up 9-2. The Bearcats immediately responded with a long drive of their own, ending when Jerome Ford powered his way into the endzone for a 3-yard rushing touchdown.

Tulane got the ball back and looked to be building momentum, but Horton’s screen pass was intercepted with two minutes left in the quarter. The Green Wave defense held strong, however, and Macon Clark intercepted Ridder a few plays later after the Cincinnati receiver fell on the route.

With 30 seconds left in the half, Horton drove Tulane into field goal range, and Merek Glover’s 41-yard field goal to end the half left the Green Wave only down 14-12.

The second half opened with several defensive stops, as Cincinnati’s defense adjusted to completely shut down Tulane. Ridder found the end zone again, as his 5-yard touchdown throw to a wide-open Whyle gave the Bearcats a 21-12 lead.

The Green Wave offense came to a complete standstill by the fourth quarter, with only Tulane’s defense keeping them in the game. Horton threw his second interception of the game, when his deep sideline pass was slightly underthrown. The Tulane defense, however, was able to force a punt.

Two plays later, Tyjae Spears fumbled the ball, leading to the third Tulane turnover of the game, deep within Green Wave territory. The fumble was the only blemish on an otherwise remarkable day for Spears. Again, the defense held firm, only allowing a field goal from Cincinnati.

Cincinnati began to pull away from Tulane late in the fourth quarter, as a desperate Green Wave offense was unable to convert on fourth down. In the ensuing drive, Ridder threw another touchdown pass, this time a 26-yard strike to Ford. Cincinnati now led 31-12, which is how the game ended.

Despite the loss, Tulane looked significantly improved on defense. Ridder was sacked three times, and he struggled to impose dominance through the air. Tulane defenders were quick in pursuit of the ball, and the secondary did a good job covering Cincinnati’s receivers. Ridder was lucky to escape with only one interception.

However, Tulane’s normally explosive offensive was silenced. Without Pratt, the Green Wave offensive looked noticeably less dynamic. The team did not manage more than 100 passing yards, with the only offensive spark coming from Spears, who gained 123 all purpose yards.

Tulane needs to remove unnecessary errors if they are to win the last four games of the season. The Green Wave committed nine penalties against the Bearcats and fumbled the ball on multiple occasions.

For Cincinnati, they look to continue their march to an undefeated season and a berth in the college football playoff. They need much improvement if they hope to be competitive later on in the season. The second-half adjustments by Cincinnati do prove that the team is well-coached and that they will remain a dangerous opponent for whoever plays them.

Next week, Tulane travels to Florida to play the University of Central Florida. Last week, UCF crushed Temple University 49-7.