Dontrell Hilliard became the third Tulane running back to rush for 100 yards in a game this season when he rumbled for a team-high 123 yards on 11 carries in the Green Wave’s 38-14 loss to Cincinnati on Friday night in Yulman Stadium.
The 6-foot, 191-pound Hilliard, who prepped at Scotlandville High, follows Sherman Badie and Lazedrick Thompson in the triple-figure club.
The last time Tulane had three players rush for 100 yards in a game in the same season was the charmed 1998 campaign, when the Wave finished 12-0 and quarterback Shaun King and running backs Jamaican Dartez and Tony Converse all accomplished the feat.
You can go home again
Heading into Friday’s game, Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said that banged-up quarterback Gunner Kiel “is our starter,” but that Edna Karr High graduate Munchie Legaux could give the Bearcats “some spark” and “our players are rallying around Munchie.”
Check, and check.
Kiel did start, but he was in for just one play in the first half, throwing a deep pass that was picked off by cornerback Parry Nickerson. It was Nickerson’s team-leading fourth interception.
When Cincinnati next got the ball, Kiel was replaced by Legaux, who made it a happy homecoming for himself and 50 family members in attendance.
On Legaux’s third play, Green Wave defensive end Tyler Gilbert was flagged for targeting him on an illegal hit above the shoulders and was ejected. A sixth-year senior, Legaux shook that off to complete 16 of 24 passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns.
Not that special
Tulane’s special teams play on Halloween night was, well, hardly special.
The Wave’s kickoff specialist, Trevor Simms, who routinely knocks the ball out of the end zone for touchbacks, was called on to attempt his first field goal of the season, a 51-yarder late in the first quarter. The result was a miss-hit that was very low and very short.
Nor did things go much better for punt returner Teddy Veal. Veal muffed Sam Geraci’s 52-yard punt at his team’s 6 in the second quarter, and the ball rolled into the end zone, where it was recovered for a Cincinnati touchdown by Eric Wilson, boosting the Bearcats’ lead to 24-0.
The next time Geraci punted, from the Tulane 43, Veal elected to let the ball go, and it was downed at the 2.
Freshman quarterback Tanner Lee, back in Tulane’s starting lineup after missing two games with an injury to his throwing shoulder, was sacked just twice, but the first takedown came at the worst possible time.
On the Wave’s first offensive series, Lee was sacked by blitzing cornerback Howard Wilder on fourth-and-goal from the Cincinnati 2, squelching the home squad’s best scoring opportunity of the opening half.
Lee, who finished 24-of-35 for 205 yards, came back to find tight end Charles Jones II for a 10-yard touchdown connection in the third quarter that cut the UC lead to 24-14. It was Lee’s ninth TD pass of the season, tying the school record for a freshman set by Ryan Griffin, now a member of the Saints practice squad, in 2009.
Tricks, not treats
Cincinnati’s victory defied Tulane tradition in two ways.
The Wave had been 7-0-1 in games played on campus on Halloween, although the most recent such contest was 40 years ago, a 25-6 thumping of VMI in 1964, in long-since-demolished Tulane Stadium.
And the loss was only the fourth for Tulane in 15 meetings between the schools, which are now members of the American Athletic Conference. Going into the game, the Wave’s .793 winning percentage against the Bearcats was its best against any current member of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Win out, or no bowl return
Now 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the AAC, Tulane must win its final four games against Houston, Memphis, East Carolina and Temple to become bowl-eligible. It’s a long shot at best, which probably means the Wave — which went 7-5 in 2013 with a 24-21 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl — again won’t go bowling in back-to-back seasons.
Tulane has not appeared in bowl games in consecutive seasons since 1979 and ’80.