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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Tulane loses heartbreaker to No. 20 Ole Miss

The Tulane University Green Wave fell to Ole Miss on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023 in front of a sell-out crowd in Yulman Stadium. (Courtesy of Parker Waters — Tulane Athletics)

In front of a crowd of 30,000 people, the Tulane University Green Wave hosted its first ranked SEC team in No. 20 University of Mississippi on Saturday. The Rebels entered fresh off a 73-7 victory, eager to continue their streak and establish themselves as a top team in their conference. 

But the Green Wave proved no easy opponent. After a 37-17 victory last week against University of South Alabama, Tulane hoped to beat its second Power Five school in their last three games. 

Ole Miss was Tulane’s hardest opponent on the schedule, but the Green Wave faced bigger problems. Senior quarterback Michael Pratt and linebacker Corey Platt Jr, two of Tulane’s best players last week, both sat out after injuries against USA. Due to Pratt’s injury, sophomore quarterback Kai Horton was thrown into the biggest game of his career. 

Both teams came out swinging. Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart led the Rebels on a three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Horton and the Green Wave responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Tulane coach Willie Fritz continued his use of trick plays, and running back Makhi Hughes took a direct snap 2 yards to pay dirt. 

Tulane’s defense finally settled in by the end of their first drive and only allowed a field goal until the third quarter. After a 44-yard field goal from kicker Valentino Ambrosio, Horton found wide receiver Jha’Quan Jackson downfield for a 41-yard score, giving the Green Wave a seven-point lead heading into halftime. 

Starting the third quarter, Tulane had the ball as well as an opportunity to extend its lead to three scores; but the Rebels forced a three-and-out after sacking Horton for a loss of 5. The Green Wave defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out of its own.

With senior quarterback Michael Pratt out with an injury, sophomore quarterback Kai Horton was thrown into the biggest game of his career. (Courtesy of Parker Waters — Tulane Athletics)

Horton and the Green Wave advanced, moving 20 yards to the Ole Miss 40. After three plays, the Green Wave faced a fourth and 6 from the 36. Fritz dialed up a pass, but Horton and Lawrence Keys III could not connect. 

Similar to their first drive, the Rebels marched 64 yards down the field in four plays, ending with a Quinshon Judkins touchdown run for 9 yards to tie the game at 17. After another Tulane punt, defensive back Lance Robinson intercepted Dart and gave Tulane possession at their own 46-yard line. 

Horton tried to go downfield, but a miscommunication between him and Keys III caused the throw to be intercepted right back. The Rebels were able to return the interception to the Tulane 20, but once again, the defense stood strong and forced a field goal. Horton drove the Green Wave downfield, but the offense ultimately stalled at the Ole Miss 31-yard line. 

Instead of letting Ambrosio attempt a kick to tie the game, Fritz again decided to go for it on fourth and 1. 

“We thought that it was just a little bit out of his range, he would have had to kick into the wind,” Fritz said. 

Horton tried to extend the ball past the first down line but stepped out of bounds before he could. Dart connected with wide receiver Dayton Wade for a beautiful catch, gaining 43 yards on that play alone. The Tulane defense forced a fourth and 4 at the 21, but allowed Dart to find tight end Michael Trigg for a touchdown

Horton again led the offense down the field to the Ole Miss eight, but three straight incompletions brought Ambrosio on for the 26-yard field goal. After the Ambrosio kick, the Green Wave was down by 7 with just under three minutes on the clock. Although they had two timeouts, Fritz opted for the onside kick, which Ole Miss recovered. 

“It was right on the cusp of kicking it deep,” Fritz said after the game. “Gotta make decisions though and gotta make them quick.” 

Ole Miss kicker Caden Davis hit a 56-yard field goal to put Ole Miss up by 10. After a completion to Keys III for 21 yards, Horton was hit hard and fumbled. The Ole Miss defense recovered the fumble and scored a touchdown, giving them the 37-20 victory. 

 

Coach Willie Fritz stands on the sidelines as his team faces Ole Miss on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (Courtesy of Parker Waters — Tulane Athletics)

Horton ended the day 15 for 37 with 231 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception. Tulane’s leading rusher, Hughes, had 23 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown. Keys III led the way with five catches for 94 yards, while Jackson and Alex Bauman added four receptions each. Jackson also added a touchdown in the second quarter. Texas A&M transfer Yulkeith Brown caught his first pass as a Green Wave for 17 yards as well. 

The defense held Judkins, a 1,500-yard rusher last year, to 48 yards. As a whole, Ole Miss only had 89 rushing yards, after running for 143 last week. Tyler Grubbs led the way with nine tackles, while Darius Hodges led the way with one-and-a-half sacks and Patrick Jenkins added the other half. Eric Hicks Jr and Kameron Hamilton added a sack each as well. Robinson also added an interception

The Green Wave look to bounce back against the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 3 p.m. 

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