Orange get field goal on game’s final play

NEW ORLEANS — Tulane did the hard part in charging back from a 17-point deficit.

But a roughing-the-passer penalty on Tulane’s Dezman Moses prolonged Syracuse’s possession and helped set up Ross Krautman’s 21-yard field goal as time expired, earning the Orange a 37-34 victory in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday night.

Despite racking up 471 yards of total offense, including 320 passing yards by quarterback Ryan Griffin, Tulane (2-4) was unable to avoid seeing its losing streak extend to three and its hopes of a bowl appearance dim even further.

“I’m shocked right now,” Griffin said. “The guys did a great job of fighting. We came out to prove what kind of a team we were, and we did that but fell short.”

In a game which featured a series of momentum swings and held almost no trends, it was Moses’ mistake which ultimately did the most damage.

“We have a guy who is very upset in there right now,” Tulane coach Bob Toledo said. “He feels like he cost us the game, and he didn’t. There were other plays too, but that was a big play because we did stop them. They were going to have to punt and they went down the field and kicked the game-winning field goal.”

The furious pace of the opening half produced a combined 541 total yards (7.5 yards per play), 25 first downs and seven touchdowns. The second half resulted in just 16 total points.

Tulane opened the scoring on the strength of its ground game, when Orleans Darkwa broke free from 40 yards away to cap an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession.

It was nearly identical to the Green Wave’s start a week earlier in its 45-6 loss to Army when Darkwa rumbled 67 yards touchdown in the game’s first possession.

And like last week, Tulane wasn’t able to leverage the scoring advantage into momentum.

Just 16 seconds later, Syracuse answered when Antwon Bailey plunged into the end zone from 5 yards out, taking advantage of the field position provided from Jeremiah Kobena’s 79-yard kickoff return.

The Orange’s next offensive possession took significantly longer but ended in fewer points when it was forced to settle for a 29-yard Krautman field goal after its 14-play, 69-yard drive stalled 12 yards shy of the end zone.

When Tulane’s Albert Williams fumbled a lateral from receiver Wilson Van Hooser, it set Syracuse up deep in Tulane territory. From there, the Orange needed just four plays to set up Nassib on a 4-yard touchdown run, stretching the lead to 24-7.

Yet, the Green Wave’s deficit didn’t immediately spiral out of control like it did in lopsided losses to Duke and Army.

Instead, Tulane provided efficient offense of its own in the second quarter. Darkwa’s 1-yard touchdown run capped a four play, 75-yard drive and trimmed Syracuse’s advantage to 24-14.

Once again, Syracuse responded in a hurry. Within three minutes, Graham pounded in his second touchdown of the night from a yard away to push its lead to 31-21.

Tulane didn’t waste any time creating an answer of its own. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Griffin found receiver Xavier Rush streaking down the sideline on a 60-yard touchdown pass, the first career touchdown for the true freshman.

Rush finished with four catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns, overwhelming his previous career statistics which amassed just nine yards on one catch.

“I think he is a talented young freshman,” Toledo said. “After about half the season now, he is starting to come into his own. He is starting to feel comfortable. He is playing faster because he is understanding what to do. He has great size, really good hands, and outstanding speed. I was really pleased to see him perform the way he did tonight.”

The offensively-dominated half was punctuated by Tulane kicker Cairo Santos, who connected on a 42-yard field goal as the clock expired, slicing the lead to 31-24 at the half.

The tempo slowed considerably in the third quarter, which featured only 3 points, provided by Santos’ career-long 49-yard field goal to set up the fourth-quarter drama.

However, Santos failed to tie the score when he missed a 45-yard attempt in the final quarter.

Meanwhile, Krautman connected on his second field goal attempt to push the lead out to 34-27, and Tulane knotted the score when Rush scored his second touchdown on a 58-yard completion to set up the drama as time expired.

“The team effort was phenomenal,” Tualne linebacker Trent Mackey said. “Everybody played their best and gave it their best shot. Unfortunately, we came away with a loss, but overall I think we stepped up our game and corrected a lot of mistakes.”