After blowing a double-digit lead late in the second half, the Tulane Green Wave rebounded with a last-minute touchdown to defeat the SMU Mustangs 27-26 on Saturday afternoon. The first victory of the season for Tulane, it comes in stunning fashion after the team nearly choked away an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Riding a 20-6 lead into the halftime break, Tulane seemed to be fully in control of the game, but the Mustangs would battle back to take a 23-20 lead midway through the fourth quarter. That put SMU in a position to potentially put away the game late, but the Tulane defense came through with a huge stop.
Starting with nearly eight minutes remaining in the game, Garrett Gilbert led the Mustangs on a massive, time-consuming drive, putting SMU inside Tulane's 10-yard line with just over two minutes remaining. A touchdown likely would've put the game away, but the defense held steady to force a field goal, keeping the game within striking distance.
That's when Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin went to work, completing a trio of passes to get the Green Wave into the end zone in just 27 seconds. That speedy drive left enough time for SMU to attempt one last drive, but Gilbert was unable to respond with a superlative last-minute effort of his own.
Box Score Hero: SMU running back Zach Line powered the team's rush offense, carrying the ball 28 times for 177 yards in addition to catching two passes for 20 yards. Griffin also put up big numbers, tossing for 302 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception. Gilbert finished 25-of-51 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Rankings Ramifications: These two teams now have a combined three victories on the season, so this wasn't exactly a game for voters to pay attention to.
But Did They Cover? The Mustangs were 19-point favorites, so they clearly didn't cover.
The Tulane Green Wave are 0-5 as they prepare to host the SMU Mustangs this Saturday in the New Orleans Superdome. Those five losses have come by an average of 33 points. But those losses aren't the worst thing to happen to the Green Wave this season.
In week two against Tulsa, Tulane safety Devon Walker was on the wrong end of a frightening collision that resulted in a fractured spine. Players from both teams were visibly shaken and emotional as Walker lay on the turf.
After some scary days, Walker has been in an in-patient rehabilitation facility for about three weeks after surgery and recovery.
It's no stretch to say the event has effected Tulane this season. (The school even set up an official page for Devon Walker updates that was curated each day for 10 days after the nightmare of a play.) After all, in week one, Tulane lost by just 12 to now-ranked and undefeated Rutgers. Since then, the Green Wave have been a mess, and rank near-dead last in the nation offensively with the defense not far ahead.
I doubt there's a person alive who wants to see Tulane keep losing after all this.
After losing games by margins of 25 and 45 earlier in the year, it's kind of hard to believe that SMU would ever be favored by 15.5 points in 2012, especially on the road.
But 0-5 Tulane isn't TCU or Texas A&M, and the Green Wave, who have lost by an average of 33 points a game this season, are more than two TD underdogs against the 2-3 Mustangs on Saturday.
Tulane hasn't had a winning season since 2003. The school has had three different head coaches in that span, with first-year coach Curtis Johnson, a WR coach for the New Orleans Saints for the last six seasons, the latest to try to revive the moribund program.
SMU will hope that Garrett Gilbert, coming off one of his better games of 2012, will continue the positive momentum he began in their win over UTEP last week, where he completed 22-42 passes for 234 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
The over/under for the game is only 48 points, as neither the Green Wave nor the Mustangs have been lighting up scoreboards in 2012.