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.