Riptide’s Reflections: Game, set, match

Jeremy Rosen and Mark Keplinger

Maggie Pasterz

The miraculous 46-45 comeback win against the University of Southern California in the Cotton Bowl Classic was one for the ages. Tulane’s star players, Dorian Williams and Tyjae Spears, put on performances of a lifetime on the biggest stage possible.

So why then, was the game decided by a freshman tight end most fans hadn’t heard of before this game? Alex Bauman was not on anyone’s radar as a difference-maker coming into this New Year’s Six matchup, yet the team turned to him on the Green Wave’s final drive to score the game-winning touchdown with just nine seconds left in the game. Quarterback Michael Pratt targeted him four times on the final drive, completing a critical 24-yard reception on fourth down and the decisive 6-yard touchdown.

Bauman is a true freshman tight end coming out of Red Bank, New Jersey. He was a strong two-way player  in high school, playing both tight end and defensive end for the Red Bank Catholic Caseys. His senior year, he solidified himself as one of the most dominant all-around high school players in the state, racking up 432 receiving yards and six touchdowns on offense, along with 87 tackles and nine sacks on defense. 

Bauman played a critical role in RBC capturing the 2021 Non-Public B State Championship his senior year, helping to hold their opponent to just 8 points. His star performances on both ends of the field earned himself the Shore Conference Most Valuable Player award, capping off a stellar high school career. 

He established himself as a consensus three-star recruit and top 30 player coming out of New Jersey. Bauman received offers to play for several D-1 schools, including programs like Rutgers, Wake Forest and Coastal Carolina. He even considered attending Notre Dame, where his older brother plays tight end for the Fighting Irish. Bauman’s decision ultimately came down to where he could earn early playing time and where he would get the opportunity to play tight end at the next level.

Head coach Willie Fritz was interested in Bauman early on in the recruiting process, intrigued by the chance to add his size to Tulane’s tight end room. He actively engaged in discussions with Bauman’s coaches and visited RBC in the week before national signing day. After Bauman officially committed to the Green Wave, Fritz commented that “he’s got a great pedigree and is a tremendous addition to this team.”

Fast forward through the 2022 season, and Bauman doesn’t see much playing time. Outside of a solid performance against Southern Mississippi where he tallied four receptions and 57 yards, he did not play much throughout the season. This is fairly common among most freshman players, who sit behind their older teammates while they learn to play at the college level. Bauman spent much of the season working closely with tight ends coach Slade Nagle and learning from team veterans Tyrick James and Will Wallace.

James had spent much of the season as the starting tight end, but Wallace was named the starter for the Cotton Bowl. Wallace’s primary role in the offense is to be an additional blocker on the offensive line, leaving Bauman to be the big receiving weapon for Pratt. 

The Green Wave offense was very run-heavy throughout most of the game, and Bauman was not utilized much outside of blocking. Pratt targeted the tight end once during the second quarter but was off the mark. In the third quarter, Pratt threw deep to Bauman for a 16-yard gain, which helped the team drive down the field and set up a Spears touchdown.

On the final comeback drive in the fourth quarter, Bauman was critical in getting through the USC defense. The back-to-back 24-yard receptions from him and then Duece Watts forced the Trojan defense to carefully cover multiple receiving threats. Watts was later taken out of the game after a head-to-head collision with a USC player while going for a touchdown reception.

Two plays later with just nine seconds left, Pratt stepped back in the pocket and delivered a bullet pass between two USC defenders and straight to Bauman. The ball bounced around in his arms before coming down with the ball. The stadium was left waiting for the refs to review the call and determine that it really was a touchdown. The call was good, putting the cherry on top of arguably the best Tulane football season ever.

That game deciding touchdown will go down as one of the most iconic moments in Green Wave football history, already cementing a football legacy here for Bauman. With the veteran tight ends graduating after this season and several more years of eligibility left, expect to hear his name a lot more often in the coming years.

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