Tulane overmatched by No. 11 Houston, 73-17

Tulane fans chanted Rich Rodriguez’s name when they found out he

was in a suite at the Superdome.

If they hadn’t been able to salute the former offensive

coordinator of the Green Wave’s 12-0 1998 team, they wouldn’t have

had much to get excited about at all during a 73-17 loss to

11th-ranked Houston on Thursday night.

Orleans Darkwa ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns, but not

much else went right for the Green Wave (2-9, 1-6 Conference USA),

which finished its home schedule with its eighth-straight loss.

”When you get beat 73-17, you are embarrassed, you are

humiliated, you are disappointed, you are frustrated,” Tulane

interim coach Mark Hutson said. ”But we have two games left to

take the bitterness and the disappointment out. We need to go to

Houston on (Nov. 19) and play well against Rice.”

Tulane was not the only team to give up 73 points to Houston

(10-0, 6-0) and record-setting quarterback Case Keenum this season.

The Cougars also scored that amount against Rice two games ago.

Early on, it looked like Tulane might have a chance to stay

close.

The Green Wave opened the game with a nearly seven-minute drive

that covered 66 yards in 15 plays, including three conversions on

third down and another on fourth-and-short, only to come up empty

when Ryan Griffin was intercepted by Phillip Steward on an

underthrown ball in the end zone.

Houston, which came in averaging 52.7 points per game, was held

without a point in the first quarter, snapping a streak of 19

straight quarters with a score.

Tulane got as close as 14-7 in the second quarter, when Darkwa

muscled into the end zone from 3 yards out, one play after he had

been caught from behind on a 66-yard run.

However, it took only four plays before Houston was back up by

two TDs on Sims’ 52-yard scoring run, which was the third of five

touchdowns the Cougars scored in the second quarter.

Sims, whose 56-yard run had set up Bryce Beall’s 11-yard scoring

run early in the second quarter, also scored on a 72-yard run in

the final minute of the half to give Houston a 35-10 lead.

”After the first quarter, we were able to run the ball and mix

up some passes pretty well,” Keenum said. ”Just a good game plan,

good coaching. … It’s just execution. When we are executing and

not making mental mistakes, silly mistakes, we’re able to

roll.”

Keenum passed for 325 yards, a pedestrian total by his

standards, before he was given the rest of the night off in the

third quarter. His three touchdown passes went for 66, 23 and 8

yards to Patrick Edwards, who also scored on a 70-yard punt

return.

”I don’t think they put any drives together,” Tulane

linebacker Trent Mackey said. ”It was just big plays over 20-30

yards.”

Keenum, who last week became the NCAA’s career leading passer,

increased his total to 17,537 yards.

He threw for his final two TDs in the third quarter and left the

game with Houston leading 52-10. Keenum finished 22-of-29 passing

and kept alive his streak of more than 300 yards passing in every

game this season.

It was also the 35th 300-yard game of Keenum’s career, which

ranks second in NCAA history, behind the 36 of former Hawaii

quarterback Timmy Chang.

Keenum needs only 49 yards passing to become only the second

player in NCAA history – along with Chang – to have three

4,000-yard seasons. Houston still has two more regular-season

games, and a bowl game, in which Keenum could potentially become

the first NCAA player to have three 5,000-yard seasons.

Keenum’s departure didn’t end Houston’s onslaught, as backup

quarterback Cotton Turner led two scoring drives, which included

his 27-yard scoring pass and a 35-yard touchdown scramble.

Damian Payne added a 76-yard punt return for a score, Houston’s

second such touchdown of the game.

Houston might have set a season high in points if coach Kevin

Sumlin hadn’t ordered the Cougars to run out the clock on their

last offensive series.

It left Green Wave fans calling for Rodriguez, a former head

coach at Michigan and West Virginia, to come back to Tulane, where

he was once Tommy Bowden’s top offensive assistant.