The finish didn’t meet the entrance.
Exactly three months after opening $80 million Yulman Stadium amid overwhelming fanfare, pomp and circumstance, Tulane’s first season season of on-campus football in almost 40 years came to a quiet end on Saturday night in front of a mostly empty stadium, which won’t see the Green Wave again until spring practice.
A 10-3 loss to Temple on senior night sealed the Green Wave’s fifth season of at least nine losses since 2008. It also completed Tulane’s precipitous fall from last season’s 7-6 record, which resulted in a New Orleans Bowl berth.
Rather than discussing postseason plans this year, Tulane’s fans were left wondering it its offense will re-emerge in 2015 after it scored just one touchdown in its final three games.
Tulane (3-9, 2-6 American) had a chance to tie in the final minute, when it drove inside the Temple 10, but Lee was sacked on first down and then overthrew Charles Jones in the end zone before succumbing to another sack on fourth down.
The Owls (6-6, 4-4) didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard themselves, but were able to overcome a litany of mistakes to piece together a decisive 25-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, capped by P.J. Walker’s 8-yard toss to Romond Deloatch.
It was the rare occasion when one of the offenses finished what it started.
Tulane squandered an opportunity on its first drive, failing to take advantage of Dontrell Hilliard’s 37-yard scamper when quarterback Tanner Lee slid a yard short of the first down line on fourth-and-7 at the Temple 25.
Backup quarterback Nick Montana directed the Green Wave to the Temple 1-yard line a possession later, setting up what would have been a Lazedrick Thompson touchdown. But as Thompson burst past the goal line, flags flew at the feet of offensive linemen Sean Donnelly and Nathan Sheinle for a chop block.
So Tulane settled for a 28-yard Andrew DiRocco field goal to scratch the first points of the night.
Temple didn’t exactly make the most of its opportunities either.
Four times the Owls drove deep into Tulane territory in the first half, but came up empty three times and were forced to settle for a field goal on the other. The stops weren’t always a product of the Green Wave’s defense.
Kicker Austin Jones’ field goal smacked the right upright on a 35-yard attempt on one drive and pushed another one at the end of the half. Temple quarterback P.J. Walker didn’t help his cause much either, missing a wide open receiver in the corner of the end zone on a fourth down attempt.
Only Jones’ 37-yarder provided the Owls enough offense to enter the locker room tied 3-3, despite out-gaining the Green Wave 202 to 138 in the first 30 minutes.
The start of the second half wasn’t much prettier.
After DiRocco missed a 39-yard field goal on the half’s opening possession, it appeared Tulane caught a break when Parry Nickeron scooped up a fumble at carried it 40 yards into the end zone. But the points never tallied, due to defensive tackle Tanzel Smart jumping offside before the snap.
Not to be outdone, Temple drove inside the Green Wave 25 after a fake punt near midfield revived a possession. This time Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss killed the scoring chance by nabbing an interception in the corner of the end zone.
However, the Green Wave generated no momentum off the pick, when Montana re-entered the game and threw an interception of his own at Tulane’s 34. But Temple actually lost 13 yards on the ensuing possession, forcing a punt.
It was emblematic of a night where what could have been was overshadowed by what actually happened.
But in the end, Temple found its way to the end zone. Tulane enters 2015 searching for a way to find an advantage on its home field after losing four of its six games in its new stadium.