Tulane falls to ULL 24-21 in New Orleans Bowl

Tulane appeared to have overcame a jittery start to its first

bowl game in 11 years, only to be stunned by a cruel ending to

kicker Cairo Santos’ otherwise distinguished college career

Orleans Darkwa scored three touchdowns as the Green Wave rallied

from a 21-0 deficit, but Santos’ 48-yard field goal try in the

final seconds missed wide left, and Tulane fell 24-21 to

Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday night.

Santos was the 2012 Lou Groza award winner as the nation’s best

college kicker, and he’d made a couple of game-winning kicks this

season to help Tulane to its first bowl since 2002.

”Cairo’s made those before,” Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said.

”It just didn’t fall for him this time.”

The game might not have come down to that kick if Tulane hadn’t

hurt itself with turnovers, penalties and rough first

quarter-and-a-half in which Johnson said his team appeared too

emotional to function as well as usual.

”It was uncharacteristic of us,” Johnson said. ”Then all of a

sudden we settled down and for three quarters of the game, from the

second quarter on, we played pretty well. … A great comeback.

We’ll get it next year.”

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Corey Trim intercepted Nick Montana and

returned it 82 yards for a touchdown, and Sean Thomas’ second

interception set up Hunter Stover’s go-ahead field goal in the

fourth quarter.

Those were plays the Ragin’ Cajuns needed with their

quarterback, Terrance Broadway, playing with a cast on his broken

right forearm.

”We preached turnovers,” Thomas said. ”Going into the game,

we knew we had to help our offense out a lot.”

Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had touchdowns runs for

the Ragin’ Cajuns (9-4). Broadway passed for 143 yards and ran for

33, but was intercepted twice, sacked four times and took a lot of

hits in the second half before being replaced by Jalen Nixon in the

fourth quarter.

Devin Powell replaced Montana in the first half and passed for

223 yards for Tulane (7-6), but his underthrown pass that Thomas

picked off was costly. Tulane’s Ryan Grant had seven catches for

113 yards. Darkwa finished with 86 yards rushing and was named the

game’s most valuable player, the first time a losing player

received that distinction in a New Orleans Bowl.

”The MVP is fine, but I wanted the win like everybody else

did,” the senior running back said.

It wasn’t clear until kickoff who was going to play quarterback

for either team. ULL coach Mark Hudspeth had all but ruled out

Broadway, who broke his throwing arm Nov. 30. Johnson said he was

unsure if he could start Montana, who’d struggled much of the

season with injuries, including to his throwing shoulder.

Both quarterbacks ended up starting, but only Broadway took the

majority of his team’s snaps.

”We felt like he was ready enough,” Hudspeth said. ”Sure

enough, he was. He made some outstanding plays tonight. His health

kept him from doing what he’d normally like to do at times, but

man, what a competitor and what a leader.”

Nixon’s play was crucial on ULL’s final offensive series, in

which the Cajuns drove from their own 9 to midfield, eating up 5:45

before Tulane got the ball back on its own 5 with 1:35 left.

Powell completed passes of 34 yards to Justin Shackleford and 27

yards to Grant to move the Green Wave into tying field goal

range.

The Ragin’ Cajuns needed six plays to produce the game’s opening

score. McGuire capped the drive with a 27-yard run in which he

reached for the pylon as he was knocked out of bounds.

Tulane’s first turnover came on a trick play in which Grant took

a reverse handoff and threw deep. Thomas intercepted it and

returned it to the ULL 27, setting up a six-play, 73-yard scoring

drive that ended with Harris’ 15-yard scoring run.

The Wave was in position to halve its deficit when Montana drove

Tulane inside the ULL 20. But Trim’s interception made it 21-0

instead.

After that, Tulane was desperate for points, and converted on

fourth-and-3 from its own 47 on Powell’s 42-yard completion to

Devon Breaux, setting up Darkwa’s first TD.

Jordan Sullen’s interception at the Tulane 35 set up the Green

Wave’s second scoring drive, which began with Powell’s 49-yard pass

to Grant. That led to Darwka’s second score on a 7-yard run up the

middle shortly before halftime.

Darkwa’s tying touchdown came on a 22-yard run shortly after

Derrick Strozier intercepted Broadway’s attempted throw-away along

the sideline.

Sullen was later knocked out by a knee to the head and carted

off the field, but Johnson said he was expected to be fine.