Tulane football suffers first loss of the season against Southern Miss

Jeremy Rosen, Sports Editor

Green Wave football breaks their undefeated start of the season after a 24-27 loss to the University of Southern Mississippi. Tulane lost the first match with Southern Miss in the revived “Battle for the Bell” series, an old rivalry game between the two teams dating back to 1979. 

Tulane had a dominant start to the game, taking a 14-0 lead early into the second quarter. Tyjae Spears got a quick eight-yard rushing touchdown on the team’s first drive of the game. Then early in the second quarter, Spears broke straight through the middle of the defensive line on his way to an unstoppable 34-yard rushing touchdown. The rushing dominance from both Spears and QB Michael Pratt made the offense look elite in the first half.

The Green Wave began to lose their dominance midway through the second quarter, as the Golden Eagles completed a deep 23-yard touchdown pass after just a five-play drive. When the Tulane offense got the ball back, they couldn’t gain any yards after Pratt took a hard sack for a nine-yard loss. When Casey Glover attempted to punt the ball away, the Southern Miss special teams managed to get past the blockers and blocked the ball. The Golden Eagles recovered the ball on Tulane’s 25-yard line, giving them an extremely short field to work with for an easy field goal.

That blocked punt appeared to be a big momentum shifter for Southern Miss, as Tulane’s confidence seemed rattled after the play. While the offense was composed enough to get a field goal at the end of the first half, they looked completely lost in the third quarter. Their first drive was stifled by an unfortunate holding penalty by freshman Alex Bauman, and they were forced to punt.

The defense did their job on Southern Miss’s next drive and forced a punt, but they almost gave the ball right back to them after Jha’quan Jackson fumbled the ball on the punt return. Pratt led the team down the field with a series of short passes to put them in field goal range and make it a two-score game again. Kicker Kriston Esnard attempted a 47-yard field goal, but it fell just short of the goal posts. The deflated Tulane defense was unable to slow down the Golden Eagles as they scored another touchdown and tied the game 17-17. 

At the start of the fourth quarter, the offense slowly worked their way down the field with a grueling 13-play drive, getting into field goal range. The offense set up Esnard for a relatively easy 37-yard field goal attempt to take the lead. However, the Southern Miss special teams managed to get past the blockers once again to swat the ball right out of the air. The Golden Eagles were able to quickly get into field goal range and take a three point lead themselves.

It only got worse on the next Green Wave drive. Backed deep into their own territory, Pratt attempted to throw a pass on third and six. His pass got broken up by defensive lineman Kristen Booth, allowing his teammate to easily catch it and run away with an easy pick-six. This gave Southern Miss a 10-point lead late into the fourth quarter and completely drained the energy out of the offense.

The team tried to make the comeback despite the hole they had dug themselves into. Nick Anderson managed to take down the Southern Miss running back to force a turnover on downs with less than a minute left on the clock. Pratt was able to lead a quick drive down the field and was able to get a 25-yard passing touchdown to Jha’quan Jackson with 19 seconds left. They attempted the difficult onside kick to try and keep possession of the ball, but Southern Miss was able to get the ball and kneel out the clock. 

Despite the tough loss, there were some bright moments. Spears looked like the best player on the field this game, especially in the first half with his two rushing touchdowns. Not only was he the rushing leader of the game with 114 yards on the ground, he was also the leading receiver. Pratt consistently went to Spears when he was under pressure, so he compiled five catches for 74 yards as well. 

The Green Wave will have to wait until next season to try and reclaim the bell from Southern Miss. They will try to bounce back on the road against conference opponent University of Houston this Friday.

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