Tulane beats Cincinnati, will host conference championship

Max Yazdian, Associate Sports Editor

The Tulane Green Wave will host the American Athletic Conference Championship this Saturday. 

These are words that even the most loyal Tulane fans would have had a hard time believing in August. Yet, they ring true after Tulane’s historic 27-24 win against the Cincinnati Bearcats. 

The game started relatively sloppy — tied at three with just five minutes left in the second quarter. Both offenses struggled out of the gate, and it looked like it could be a defensive slugfest. 

That changed when Tyjae Spears ran in an 11-yard touchdown with 4:58 left on the clock to give the Green Wave a 10-3 lead. On the next drive, Cincinnati marched down the field and tied up the game with a 35-yard touchdown run from Charles McClelland. 

Tulane received the kickoff with 2:41 remaining in the first half and was looking to take the lead into the locker room. An impressive 47-yard field goal from Valentino Ambrosio went straight through the uprights, giving the Green Wave a 13-10 lead at halftime. 

After punting on their opening drive, Dorian Williams was able to track down a deflected ball and intercept Evan Prater for the game’s first turnover. The interception put the Green Wave in excellent field position, and they were quickly able to capitalize. A couple of plays later, Spears ran in a short touchdown to give the Wave a 20-10 lead early in the third. 

However, a team as good as Cincinnati was not about to roll over. Cincinnati got the ball back and subsequently went on a 14-play 75-yard touchdown drive to cut Tulane’s lead to 3 points.

Tulane responded with a failed fourth down conversion attempt, giving the Bearcats back the ball with all the momentum. In another long drive, Prater was able to lead Cincinnati back into the end zone to take their first lead of the day at 24-20. 

Michael Pratt and the Green Wave offense received the ball down four with six minutes left in the season’s most significant moment to date. They delivered — spectacularly so. 

Pratt threw some of his two best passes of the day on back-to-back plays. The first was a 33-yard crossing route to Shae Wyatt, which put Tulane firmly in Cincinnati territory. On the next throw, Pratt threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Duece Watts, giving Tulane a 27-24 lead with five minutes remaining. Tulane’s defense then stepped up, holding Cincinnati to a three-and-out, and four-and-out on back-to-back possessions to close the game. 

This gave Tulane arguably its biggest win of this century and clinched them a spot in their first-ever AAC championship. 

While the win was historic on its own, the team they beat to get there makes it even more impressive. Coming into Saturday, Cincinnati had won 32 consecutive home games, good for the second-longest streak in the country. Cincinnati had also won the past two AAC championships and was looking to three-peat in its final season before heading to the Big 12. 

Tulane will play their final home game on Dec. 3, a championship on the line. They will play UCF at 3 p.m., and the game will be broadcasted on ABC.

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