July 13, 2020

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Second Half Surge Lifts Tulane over Houston 38-31: Justin McMillan Hits Walk-Off Touchdown Pass to Overcome 14 Point Deficit

1st Half

Houston won the opening toss and elected to receive in the AAC conference opener for the Tulane Green Wave. 

On the first play from scrimmage for the Cougars, D’Eriq King rolled out to the right in what looked to be a QB keeper, however, King found Jr. wideout Marquez Stevenson for a 75 yard touchdown pass. The Wave defense sold out on King, which left Stevenson wide open for a sprint to the endzone.

Tulane’s offense followed the Cougar score a bit sluggish, allowing QB Justin McMillan to get sacked for a loss of 4 on the first play for the Wave offense. McMillan failed to connect on a longball to Darnell Mooney on a 3rd and long, resulting in a 3-and-out, forcing to turn the ball back over to Houston and King. A slow start both offensively and defensively for Tulane.

Tulane’s defense tightened during Houston’s second offensive drive. DE Cameron Sample allowed little room for the Cougar run game to get properly established, as Houston was forced into a 3rd and 15. D’Eriq King rolled out, avoiding the sack and launched it downfield when wideout Tre’von Bradley snagged a 22 yard reception in tight coverage for a Houston 1st, bailing out the Cougar offense on a sure punting situation. On the very next play, Tulane’s Juan Monjarres hit King in the backfield, sending the ball airborne where CB Jaylon Monroe found an easy interception, shifting momentum in the Wave’s favor.

McMillan wasted no time to capitalize off the Cougar turnover, launching a dime to WR Jalen McCleskey on the fourth play of the drive for a 38 yard Wave score. The touchdown toss was preceded by 4 straight runs by the Wave offense, including a 4th and 1 sweep to Amare Jones, setting up the huge play through the air for McMillan. 

Houston showed life in their running game, working senior RB Patrick Carr as he crossed midfield into Tulane territory. King took a QB keeper up the middle to give the Cougar’s a 3rd and 1 try at the Wave 44, which Kyle Porter picked up with ease for a 7 yard carry to Tulane’s 35. Following the first down, Houston’s Stevenson found the edge for a huge gain of 34 on the ground, inevitably leading to a Cougar score on a 1 yard touchdown run by Porter. 

Darius Bradwell challenged the Cougar front 7 on the next possession, only gaining a yard, which was followed by consecutive incompletions from McMillan, gifting a rolling Houston offense another possession following a disappointing series by Tulane’s offense. 

The Cougars responded with a 3-and-out on their own. A short punt allowed Tulane possession in Houston territory at the 45.

McMillan and the Wave offense found themselves in yet another 3rd down attempt, and a false start penalty pushed them back even further. McMillan was sacked on the third and long by Houston DL Derek Parish, resulting in the Green Wave offense beginning the game 0 for 4 on third down attempts in the first quarter. Overall, a slow start for Tulane offensively, with McMillan going 1-5 on passing, with the lone completion being the touchdown to McCleskey.

Kyle Porter continued finding success against the Wave defense, slashing his way inside the Wave 30. D’Eriq King would find wide receiver Keith Corbin on a 28 yard touchdown strike, his 50th career passing touchdown, giving Houston a 21-7 lead at the beginning of the second quarter.

McMillan finally found running room on the ground, scrambling for 16 yards up the middle of the Cougar D, however, a costly false start negated the run. McMillan then completed a short pass to McCleskey, but was forced out by Houston’s Deontay Anderson, giving Houston the ball at the Wave 35 yard line. A costly mistake for Tulane. 

King started his possession with 2 incompletions following the fumble recovery by the Houston defense, forcing a 3rd and 10. On the 3rd down, King avoided an all out blitz, sprinting up the middle causing multiple misses by Tulane defenders, eventually finding the endzone on a 35 yard scoring scramble. With that touchdown carry, D’Eriq King surpassed Tim Tebow’s 2006 FBS record by accounting for both a rushing and passing touchdown in 15 consecutive games.

McMillan started the next possession on a 10 yard keeper, then followed up with a 7 yard completion to Jaetavian Toles. Corey Dauphine received back-to-back carries on the ground, followed by a scramble by McMillan, pushing the Wave offense inside the Houston 30 as Tulane finally began to find success through their rushing attack. Darius Bradwell took the next carry for the Wave’s 4th consecutive run, which he took for 25 yards to the Houston 3, giving Tulane a first and goal. McMillan would then be sacked for a loss of 6, but on a 2nd and goal following the sack, Wave RB Stephon Huderson took a handoff for 9 yards up the middle for Tulane’s second score of the night and their first on the ground, cutting the Cougar lead to 14. 

Houston’s offense found midfield through the arm of King, who’s 3rd down proficiency continued to shine. King then found TE Christian Trahan for a first down gain of 9 yards, edging ever closer to Tulane’s redzone. King continued to attack the Tulane secondary, this time completing a slant for 8 yards to Cole McGowan at the 20 yard line. Patrick Carr pushed ahead on the ground for the Cougars for 6 yards, giving Houston a 3rd and 4. Tulane would then force a field goal attempt after King’s incompletion on 3rd, where Houston’s Dalton Witherspoon would hit the left upright on the kick and a huge sigh of relief for the Wave faithful. 

Following the missed 3-point try by Houston, the Green Wave offense sputtered, failing to pick up a first down after two scrambles by McMillan, followed by an incomplete pass. 

King and the Cougar offense would get possession with under 3 minutes remaining in the half. Dana Holgorson’s squad failed to convert a first down, allowing Tulane another offensive opportunity with two timeouts remaining with 1:13 remaining in the half. An illegal block in the back against the Wave would force Tulane to begin play at their own 6 yard line. Coach Willie Fritz seemed content with taking a 14 point deficit at half, electing to run out the clock as the second quarter came to a close. Overall, a sloppy start for the Wave, who finished the first half 0 for 5 on third down conversions, while being outgained by Houston 373-161. McMillan was 3-10 and 47 yards with 1 touchdown pass in the first half, compared to D’Eriq King, who was 11-22, 195 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. 


2nd Half

Tulane began the 3rd quarter with a spark. Amare Jones took the opening kickoff for 41 yards giving their offense great starting field position. Tulane came out running, handing the ball off 4 straight times, with Darius Bradwell picking up a yard on 4th and 1 as the Wave sat 2-2 on 4th down. Following the conversion, McMillan launched a deep ball for the endzone which wideout Darnell Mooney snatched in single coverage for a touchdown of 48 yards. That would be McMillan’s second consecutive touchdown through the air following a 4th down conversion. 

King quickly got back to work following the Tulane score, using both his arm and legs to push the Cougars past midfield in only 3 plays. Once past midfield, however, Tulane’s defense clamped down, affecting King in the backfield and eventually bringing up a much needed 3rd down stand. Houston punter Dane Roy would pit the Wave offense at their own 3, forcing Tulane to travel the length of the field in order to tie the game.

McMillan would keep following a short gain by Jones, finding a lane and getting the Green Wave out of their own endzone. Bradwell powered ahead on multiple touches to the Green Wave 30, then McMillan scrambled for 26 yards for a first down and positioned the offense at the Houston 45. Tulane would finally complete their first 3rd down conversion of the night, with Dauphine carrying for 9 yards. Back-to-back false starts against Tulane’s offensive line negated the gain by Dauphine, then McMillan would miss his next two passes bringing up a second 3rd down attempt on the drive. McMillan took a shot to the endzone for Mooney, but Mooney was tripped up resulting in a Tulane punt and turnover on downs. 

D’Eriq King could not get it done following the punt, getting sacked by Tulane DE Patrick Johnson on a critical 3rd and short. Dane Roy, on another excellent punt, spotted the ball inside the Wave 10, forcing Tulane’s offense to go the distance if they were to tie the ballgame. 

The offense started slow, with McMillan being sacked on 2nd down, immediately followed by another 2 consecutive false starts, bringing up a 3rd and 14 for the Wave at their own 2. McMillan dodged pressure on 3rd and long, scrambling to the sideline and eventually finding McCleskey for a gain of 27 and a first down. Dauphine’s number got called next, exploding on a 35 yard carry to end the 3rd quarter and put Tulane inside the redzone. Bradwell would pick up 5 on the ground resulting in a 3rd and 1. McMillan faked the handoff in a play-action 3rd and 1 call as he faked a throw to the endzone, inevitably pulling it back and finding the endzone on a 15 yard touchdown run to tie things up 28-28. That 98 yard scoring drive would be Tulane’s longest of the season so far.

King came out throwing following Tulane’s score, completing a pass up the middle for 11, then followed up with a handoff to Carr for another 11. King’s next pass would be complete to sophomore TE Shane Creamer, but Wave defenders swarmed in, knocking back Creamer for a loss of 1. Following the loss, Patrick Carr took the handoff for 4 yards, bringing up a 3rd and 7 for the Cougars. Carr’s number was called again, picking up a first down on a carry for 8 yards. That carry would push Carr over 1000 yards on the season. The Wave defense stepped up, sacking King on a 3rd and 10, forcing the Cougars to attempt their second 3-point try of the night, this time wide left and another break for DC Jack Curtis’s squad. 

Amare Jones opened up Tulane’s offensive drive with a jet sweep for 17 yards. Jones carried again following the sweep for a huge gain, but a costly holding penalty pushed Tulane back for a 1st and 20. Darius Bradwell responded by carrying for 12 yards, giving the Green Wave a manageable 2nd and 8. McMillan’s 2nd down pass would be broken up, forcing another 3rd down try. McMillan dropped back in the pocket and delivered a ball to Jatavian Toles for the first, improving the Wave to 4-12 on 3rd down. Bradwell got things going again with a 9 yard carry on 1st down, with Amare Jones picking up 2 yards on 2nd down, moving the sticks again as Tulane moved inside the Houston 30. Facing a 3rd and 9 on the 27, McMillan dropped a beautiful pass into the hands of Mooney in the endzone, but Mooney failed to retain possession, bringing on the field goal unit for a 44 yard attempt, which Casey Glover nailed, tying his career long. Tulane would go up 31-28, their first lead of the night.

Houston’s offense came out running, with keepers by King and Carr carrying the Cougars to midfield. However, once at the Tulane 48, the Green Wave defense locked down the Houston wide receivers, with Larry Brooks deflecting King’s pass, bringing up a Houston 4th and 9. The Cougars elected to go for it on 4th and 9, their first 4th attempt of the night. King dropped back in the pocket, then scrambled his way for a Houston first down. King continued moving the ball on the ground, forcing his way inside the Tulane 20. On a 3rd down and 8 from the 18, Houston committed a false start, however, the Tulane defense was charged with a dead ball foul, gifting the Cougars half the distance to the goal and an automatic first down. King then carried for 7 yards, but Tulane’s D forced a tackle for loss of 3 on the following play, resulting in a 3rd and 6 with under 30 seconds to go in the 4th quarter. King’s 3rd down pass was incomplete, as Houston would then tie the game with a field goal with 21 seconds remaining in regulation. 

Tulane’s Amare Jones found space on the edge for a gain of 18, smartly running out of bounds at the 47 yard line with 12 seconds left on the game clock. On the very next play, QB Justin McMillan miraculously found wide receiver Jalen McCleskey in the seam, where McCleskey maneuvered his way through the Houston secondary for a 53 yard game winning touchdown. A stunning finish for the Green Wave and an excellent start to conference play in the AAC.

Final from Yulman: Tulane 38, Houston 31


Justin McMillan 7-20, 186 yards, 3 TD. 15 RUSH for 108 yards, 1 TD

Darius Bradwell 20 RUSH, 113 yards

Corey Dauphine 8 RUSH, 71 yards

Jalen McCleskey 4 REC, 120 yards, 2 TD