Tulane gets to enjoy its second open date in three weeks before facing Cincinnati on Friday, Oct. 31 in Yulman Stadium. The Halloween game has been promoted by Green Wave officials for weeks, since it will be on national television in one of the only games in the country played that night. The Bearcats (3-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) entered Saturday allowing more yards than any team in the nation but found the elixir it needed in beating the nation’s lowest-scoring offense, SMU 41-3 in Dallas. Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, a former LSU commitment, threw for 240 yards and a touchdown in just 20 attempts, snapping a three game losing streak. Kiel powers an efficient passing attack, which ranks second in AAC in passer rating (146.2) and leans heavily on its aerial abilities.
Just when it appeared Tulane was on the verge of being blown out on the road again, the Green Wave found itself one possession away from tying Central Florida, the defending AAC champions. However, Nick Montana’s fourth-down heave to Leondre James fell incomplete in the final minutes, allowing UCF to hang on for a 20-13 victory in Orlando, Fla. It was Tulane’s third loss in its past four games but arguably its best performance. Defensively, the Green Wave forced four turnovers and pressured UCF’s quarterbacks throughout the afternoon. But its sluggish offense rarely took advantage of the pristine field position and a missed field goal, coupled with a bad snap on a punt, cost Tulane dearly.
Defensive end Tyler Gilbert played his best game of the season, continuously wreaking havoc up front with highlight plays. As part of the senior’s six tackles, he forced a fumble, tallied a sack and racked up a pair of tackles for loss. It was the kind of performance Tulane’s coaches expected after he shined in preseason camp. However, entering Saturday, he only made 10 total tackles with half a sack. Against the Knights, he was the key cog of a defense that piled up nine tackles for loss.
“We just didn’t take advantage of some of the turnovers our defense gave us. We have to get to the point offensively where we make touchdowns or field goals or something when they give us the ball way down there.”
— Tulane coach Curtis Johnson
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Running back Lazedrick Thompson nearly carried the Green Wave to victory. The redshirt sophomore gained 63 yards on 12 carries, including a 9-yard touchdown run to shave Tulane’s deficit to seven points early in the fourth quarter. He also came through when needed most. Starter Sherman Badie injured his foot in the final quarter, eliminating a key playmaking element of the Green Wave offense. Thompson responded by picking up three first downs on the ground as Tulane drove deep into UCF territory before stalling.
UCF’s 233 yards were a season-low. ...Tulane has forced a turnover in each of its past 16 games, dating to a loss at Syracuse on Sept. 21, 2013. ...Tulane’s defense has compiled at least four tackles for a loss in 21 consecutive games, dating to a Nov. 21, 2012 loss at East Carolina. ...Kicker Andrew DiRocco converted his longest field goal of the season in the third quarter, converting a 42-yard attempt which drew Tulane within a 13-6 deficit.