Tulane football bounces back, beats Houston in overtime

Zachary Brandwein, Staff Writer

After the disappointing loss to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles last Saturday, Tulane bounced back and beat the Houston Cougars in overtime, 27-24. The game was a war of attrition, with both defenses standing strong until the end. The teams combined to force three fumbles, each team blocked a field goal and — until there were 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter — each defense only allowed one touchdown

It was announced on Friday that Tulane starting quarterback Michael Pratt would be sidelined for the game with a shoulder injury, which allowed backup Justin Ibieta to get his first career start. However, his start was short lived, as he was pulled after his first offensive drive due to a shoulder injury. This meant the redshirt freshman, third string quarterback Kai Horton entered the game for the visitors.

This was Horton’s second time seeing action this season, the first being against Alcorn State on Sept. 10. Horton threw one pass in that contest, a completion for nine yards. He mainly saw the field last year, playing in four games and starting once against Cincinnati

The Houston defense was also down several starters with safety Gervarrius Owens, defensive back Art Green and defensive end Derek Parish all out, while the offense was down starting wide receiver Joseph Manjack IV. 

The Green Wave struck first thanks to a 16-yard touchdown pass from Horton to Duece Watts, but the Cougars knotted the game up by halftime with a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Clayton Tune to Tank Dell.

The Green Wave went up 14-7, following a scoop and score from Jadon Canady after a forced fumble from Nick Anderson, about halfway through the third quarter. The Cougars responded with another long drive and touchdown to tie the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Houston took the lead thanks to a beautiful touch pass from Tune to Dell.

With little time left, Horton took the field once again for the Green Wave. “The defense was kind of worn out, the offense needed to make some plays – down there at the very end they did,” head coach Willie Fritz said. Tulane was down by a score with 2:45 left, but Horton led an 11 play, 75 yard game tying drive, where he completed six of nine passes for 69 yards. 

In overtime, Houston got the ball first but could only manage a field goal. On the ensuing possession, Horton found running back Tyjae Spears in the endzone to dramatically win Tulane the game 27-24.

“We were struggling a little bit … you just never know when it’s your opportunity. It was Kai’s opportunity,” Fritz said. Horton ended the game 11/21 with 3 passing touchdowns, including the game winner. 

After having 188 yards from scrimmage last week against Southern Miss, Tyjae Spears has continued his emergence as a dual threat running back. This week, Spears contributed 139 yards of offense and also scored the game winning touchdown with a beautiful catch on the side of the end zone. This season, Spears already eclipsed his receiving total from last year by 46 yards, with six fewer receptions.

Deuce Watts, a senior wide receiver, led the Tulane receiver corps with 50 yards and a score. Tyrick James, the senior tight end, only had two catches, but his touchdown late in the fourth quarter tied the game with 39 seconds left. 

This win puts Tulane at 1-0 in conference play and second only to the Memphis Tigers in the conference. The Green Wave and the Tigers have identical 4-1 records. However Memphis has one more conference win than Tulane. With each team playing two conference games in the next two weeks — and then playing each other — these next few weeks could end up being crucial when it’s all said and done. 

After this week’s win, Tulane received nine top 25 votes in the latest AP College Football rankings. The Green Wave will next host the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Yulman Stadium. The game is during the university fall break, however the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

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