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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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Green Wave bounces back, wins Battle for the Bell

Running back Makhi Hughes breaks a tackle against Southern Miss on Saturday Sept. 16, 2023. (Courtesy of Parker Waters — Tulane Athletics)

After a devastating loss last week against University of Mississippi, the Green Wave looked to bounce back against the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles on Saturday. The Green Wave faced a familiar foe in head coach Will Hall, who was the Green Wave’s offensive coordinator for two years during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Quarterback Michael Pratt sat out with an injury again, giving Kai Horton his second consecutive start. USM won seven of their last 10 meetings against Tulane University, and gave Tulane one of their two losses last season. 

On the first drive of the game, Horton and the Green Wave offense came out swinging. After connecting with Lawrence Keys III three times in a row, coach Willie Fritz dialed up a quarterback sneak, and Horton scored from 1 yard out. After only allowing one of 13 third-down conversions against Ole Miss, USM converted their first two attempts, from 8 and 11 yards respectively. 

Tulane finally stopped USM on third and 2, but Hall dialed up a wildcat for running back Frank Gore Jr., who overthrew tight end Justin Reed, giving the Green Wave defense a huge break. Unfortunately for the Green Wave, the USM defense forced a three-and-out, getting them the ball right back. The defense was able to hold strong, and USM sent out their kicker Andrew Stein. Stein’s season long is 52 yards, so the 48-yarder was well within his range. The Green Wave caught their second break of the day when Stein’s kick sailed wide. 

Horton led the Green Wave down the field and connected with Keys III again — this time for 24 — but USM held defensively and forced a fourth and 2. Rather than kicking the 35-yard field goal to extend their lead to two scores, Fritz sent the offense back onto the field. Horton tried to link up with Keys III again, but solid coverage from USM resulted in an incompletion and a turnover

After a Darius Hodges third-down sack, USM had to punt. They almost got the ball back, after Kiland Harrsion was pushed into Jha’Quan Jackson, which caused him to muff the punt. Continuing the theme, Tulane caught another break, as Tahir Annoor was able to fall on the loose ball. 

After a sack, a 2-yard run and an incompletion, the Green Wave defense stepped back onto the field. The Green Wave sent pressure and forced a punt, pushing USM off the field as quickly as they got on. But for the third time in the half, the Green Wave offense went three-and-out. Quarterback Billy Wiles led the Golden Eagles down the field to the Tulane 30, but the Green Wave defensive line drove a loss of 12 on the ensuing rushing play, knocking USM out of field goal range. 

USM got the ball to start the third quarter. Devean Deal took an unnecessary targeting penalty away from the play, resulting in his ejection. An intentional grounding moved the USM line of scrimmage back 10 yards, and the Golden Eagles were forced to punt. 

Much like their opening drive of the first half, Tulane came out strong. Following two short yardage plays, the Green Wave offense faced a third and 4 from the USM 35-yard line. Horton threw a screen pass to wide receiver Jackson, who made a number of defenders miss on the way to the end zone. 

Following Valentino Ambrosio’s extra point, Tulane led 14-0. On the ensuing possession, Wiles was able to lead the Golden Eagles to the Tulane 8-yard line, but an effective stand from the Tulane defense put Stein back onto the field for a field goal. Fritz established the ground game the next drive with Makhi Hughes running to the 27, and Shaadie Clayton-Johnson running for 14 the play after, but USM was able to make an adjustment to shut down two straight runs. On third down, Fritz dialed up a pass play, and Horton hit Chris Brazzell II on a slant for a 3-yard score.

The Green Wave won the Battle for the Bell against Southern Miss on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. (Courtesy of Parker Waters — Tulane Athletics)

After Ambrosio’s third extra point of the day, Tulane led 21-3. The Green Wave defense kept rolling, forcing a three-and-out on USM’s next drive. Horton and Brazzell II picked up right where they left off, with a 17-yard connection giving Tulane field position on the USM side of the field. 

After a sack and false start, Tulane faced a second and 26 that they were unable to claw back from. A beautiful punt by Will Karoll, combined with a great special teams play from Keys III, gave USM the ball back at their own 1 yard line. Although they did not get a safety, the Green Wave was able to force another three-and-out to get the ball right back. 

Hughes started the drive with a 20-yard run, but the drive stalled after that. Fritz faced a tough choice from the USM 30, but ultimately gave Ambrosio the green flag. Ambrosio had the leg, but could not get the accuracy, missing the uprights to the left. The Green Wave was able to force a fourth down on USM’s drive, but an 11-yard run by Rodrigues Clark kept the drive alive for the Golden Eagles. 

The Golden Eagles negated that run on the next play, taking a holding penalty which moved them back 10 yards. After two incomplete passes and a 3-yard run, Keith Cooper Jr. sacked Wiles on fourth down, sealing the game for the Green Wave.

Horton ended the day 12/19 for 186 yards and two touchdowns, with another touchdown on the ground. After a slow start in the first half, only rushing for 26 yards, the rushing attack exploded. Running back Clayton-Johnson had a solid day, rushing for 66 yards on 12 attempts, but freshman Hughes stole the show. Hughes rushed for 83 yards on 14 attempts, which brought the Green Wave rushing total to 128 yards. 

After his hot start, Keys III cooled off, but still led the Green Wave in receiving yards and targets, with 78 and four respectively. Jackson and Brazzell II caught the two touchdowns thrown by Horton. This win was not one sided either. The defense showed out, only allowing three points all game. After only allowing 89 rushing yards last week, the defense doubled down. Standout USM running back Gore Jr. was held to 16 yards on just 13 carries, and the Golden Eagles only rushed for 35 yards total. The passing game was not any better for USM, with Wiles ending the game 19 of 33 for 177 yards and no touchdowns. As a unit, the Green Wave defense recorded three sacks and 11 tackles for loss

Tulane will face Nicholls State University next week on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. at Yulman Stadium.

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