SMU handled Tulane, 33-28, in a Conference-USA showdown Saturday evening in the Louisiana
Superdome. SMU's won-loss record stands at 3-2 overall and 1-0 in C-USA.
It was the frst college football game in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina badly damaged
the massive 30-year old structure at the end of August, 2005.
The Mustangs were led by quarterback Justin Willis, who passed for 261 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team in rushing with 76 yards, and another score.
Tulane, now 1-2 overall, and 0-2 in Conference USA, was led by senior quarterback Lester Ricard, who threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-48 passing. Ricard was sacked 6 times for 51 yards in losses, and a key Ricard fumble set up SMU's final score and ensured victory for the Mustangs
Receiver Damarcus Davis led the Green Wave with nine catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Tulane's running game was a non-factor, as the Green Wave rushed for minus-33 yards including
Ricard's 51 yards in losses.
Matt Forte was the Green Wave's leading rusher but managed only 17 yards on 11 carries.
Running back Cedric Dorsey contributed 45 yards rushing on 14 carries, but overall the Ponies
rushed for only 98 yards.
Emmanuel Sanders led the Pony receivers with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
SMU scored first on a six-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Zack Sledge near the end of the
of the first quarter. That score capped a 3-play, 6-yard drive that was set up when Michael Batiste dropped a fourth down pass from punter Chris Beckman on a fake punt on a fourth-and-nine from the Tulane 6-yard line. Batiste was wide open.
After an exchange of punts, kicker Thomas Morstead gave the Mustangs a 10-0 lead on a 34-yard field goal with 6:34 to play in the first half. The field goal was set up by a 28-yard Blake Warren punt return that set the Pony offense up at the Tulane 37-yard line. Morstead's field goal came after SMU gained 20-yards in 6 plays before stalling.
After Tulane's offense continued to struggle, Chris Beckman's punt was downed at the SMU 26.
Willis then led the Mustangs on a 12-play, 74-yard drive, that ended when Willis scored from the one-yard line to give the Mustangs a 17-0 lead at the half. The play was reviewed and to many in the stadium, the replay seemed to indicate that Willis was tackled by Tulane's David Skehan and was down on the field at the one, before slithering into the endzone.
Ricard moved the Greenies to the SMU 32 when time ran out in the first half.
Tulane took the second half kickoff but could only manage one first down before Beckman was
forced to punt. Tulane's defense force a punt in turn, which Fred Smith returned 36 yards to the
SMU 47. Ricard then moved the Green Wave to the Pony 27, where the drive stalled. On fourth
down Tulane lined up to kick a field goal, but instead holder Anthony Scelfo threw a pass on a
Scelfo's pass for tight end Jerome Landry in the SMU end zone was incomplete, but Pony linebacker
Wilton McCray was flagged for interference, giving Tulane the ball at the 20. Scelfo remained in at quarterback but was unable to generate a first down and Thevenot's 32-yard field goal was wide to end the threat and give the ball back to SMU.
Three plays into the ensuing possession Tulane got on the boards when safety Dave Skehan
intercepted a tipped pass and returned the ball 30-yards for Tulane's first score. Skehan's touchdown made it a 17-7 ball game.
But SMU responded with a 16-play, 74-yard drive that ate nearly 7 minutes off the clock and
resulted in a Morstead field goal from 23 yards out on the second snap of the fourth quarter to
extend the Pony lead to 20-7.
Tulane then went to their hurry up offense and put on a 5-play, 90-yard drive that took 1:25
and ended with a Ricard to Preston Brown 35-yard touchdown pass to make the score 20-14.
SMU then went on a 50-yard drive that ended when the usually reliable Morstead's 39-yard field
goal attempt was wide.
Ricard then led the Tulane offense on a 14-play, 77-yard drive that took 3 minutes and was
completed when Ricard then found Davis from 11 yards out. The touchdown pass came with
7:52 remaining in the game to tie the score at 20. Thevenot's PAT gave Tulane a 21-20 lead, their first of the evening.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Jessie Henderson outraced the Greenie covermen 100 yards for a
touchdown, giving SMU the lead back at 26-21. Henderson is a dangerous return man, but other
than that one return, Tulane's kick cover unit held the SMU return men - Henderson and Blake
Warren - to 36 return yards on 2 attempts.
After Henderson's run back the Ponies attempted a 2-point PAT attempt but tight end Ryan Kennedy
was tackled short of the goaline by Tulane's Joseph Goosby after catching a short pass from Justin Willis.
Lester Ricard fumbled the snap on the first play of the Tulane possession following the ensuing
kickoff and SMU's Cory Muse recovered at the Tulane 30.
SMU then scored again on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Emmanuel Sanders to extend
their lead to 33-21 with 4:10 remaining after Morstead converted the PAT.
Tulane then went on an 83-yard drive that took 10 plays and took 1:37 off the clock and finished with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Ricard to Jeremy Williams, to pull the Green Wave to within five points at 33-28 after Thevenot kicked the extra point but that would be the last time that the Green Wave would score as Thevenot's on-sides kick was recovered by SMU and the Ponies ran out the clock, eventually taking a knee on the Tulane as the clock ran out.
Joe Goosby led the Tulane defense with 10 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.
Tulane plays Rice next Saturday in the Superdome at 1 p.m. Rice defeated Army 48-14.