When this game headed to the fourth quarter, I had the following thought.
We talk all the time about games that were not as close as the final score would suggest, due to some late scores or other shenanigans that were interesting but ultimately didn’t affect the outcome.
We talk a lot less often about games that were much closer, but this game feels like an accurate depiction of that idea.
That was at least in part because as we headed to the fourth quarter, Tulsa trailed 31-16 despite being in the red zone for the seventh time.
As though the universe were listening inside my head, the first play of the fourth quarter saw Zach Smith throw a 16-yard touchdown pass on third and fifteen, then two offensive plays later Justin McMillan tossed his second ugly interception of the day.
Suddenly the Golden Hurrican were in the red zone for the eighth time and down a single score.
Tulane’s defense stiffened up yet again, and the Green Wave’s fourth sack of the day meant Tulsa’s fourth field goal and a 31-26 Tulane lead.
The Angry Waves were very up and down all game. Corey Huderson cracked off a 55-yard run in the first quarter, but otherwise Tulane only had 126 yards on their other 30 carries.
Huderson also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass, and there was another 36-yard completion to Jalen McCleskey that prefaced on of Justin McMillan’s rushing touchdowns. Otherwise McMillan was 8-for-12 for 97 yards and two interceptions heading into the game’s final 10 minutes.
Then the correct Tulane late-game offense appeared out of the mist:
- 2nd & 9 at TULN 31 – Justin McMillan run for 11 yds to the Tulan 42
- 1st & 10 at TULN 42 – Corey Dauphine run for 12 yds to the Tulsa 46
- 1st & 10 at TLSA 46 – Justin McMillan pass to Darnell Mooney for 11 yds
- 1st & 10 at TLSA 35 – Corey Dauphine run for 16 yds to the Tulsa 19
- 1st & 10 at TLSA 19 – Corey Dauphine run for 16 yds to the Tulsa 3
Tulane then spent the next week and a half punching it into the end zone to push the lead to 38-26, and that was about all she wrote.
The offense eventually kept chugging along and wound of totalling 477 yards, 293 of which came on the ground
My initial thought about a game being closer than the score definitely still holds true, and Tulsa’s red-zone offense and/or Tulane’s red-zone defense were the entire difference in this one, as the Wave had to overcome another 12 penalties for 124 yards as well as several lapses in coverage throughout the game.
Tulane is now bowl-eligible at 6-3 which is definitely a positive, but a win on the road against Temple or SMU or a home finale victory against UCF might be necessary for this season to not feel like a bit of a let-down.