NORMAN, Okla. – Tulane football jumped out to a 14-7 lead at No. 2/3 Oklahoma, but the Sooners were too much in the end, as the Green Wave fell, 56-14, Saturday evening in front of a crowd of 86,290 at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
Playing against an opponent ranked as high as No. 2 for the first time since 2007, Tulane (1-2) started fast, forcing a turnover on Oklahoma’s opening drive, and converted it into a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back Dontrell Hilliard. The Green Wave then responded with another scoring drive after the Sooners (3-0) tied the game, taking a 14-7 lead at the 4:04 mark of the first quarter.
Hilliard finished with a season-high 104 yards on 19 rushes. He became the12th 2,000-yard rusher in school history and now has 2,065 career yards. Sophomore quarterback Johnathan Brantley, who started in place of the injured Jonathan Banks, ran 19 times for 60 yards and a touchdown, and completed five passes for 43 yards.
“We were running inside zone quite a bit and had some nice seams,” Tulane head coach Willie Fritz said. “The few times that they would squeeze it, we would do pretty well with running the quarterback and running the ball as well. It looked good early, but they made some adjustments and started bringing more people. In the second half, it was corner blitzes and just having a few more people that we couldn’t account for at the point of attack.”
The game was tied, 14-14, after the first period, before the Sooners scored twice in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead into the half. In the first half, the Wave totaled 224 yards of offense, including 184 on the ground, while OU had 313 yards, including 250 passing yards. Tulane managed just 67 yards in the second half, however, as Oklahoma outgained the Green Wave, 631-291 for the game.
Freshman safety Chase Kuerschen, making his first career start in place of injured junior Roderic Teamer Jr., knocked the ball loose from Oklahoma receiver Mark Andrews after a 29-yard completion on the fifth play of the game. Senior safety Jarrod Franklin jumped on the loose ball, giving the Green Wave possession at their 35.
Brantley, making his third career start, completed a seven-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jabril Clewis on the first play. It was the first reception at Tulane for Clewis. The play started an eight-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in Hilliard’s two-yard plunge into the north end zone to give the Wave a 7-0 lead.
The Sooners then tied the game at seven apiece with a two-play drive, scoring on an 82-yard pass from Baker Mayfield to CeeDee Lamb.
Tulane, however, continued with its offensive momentum, driving 75 yards in nine plays that elapsed 4:28 to retake the lead. Brantley scampered the final 14 yards to the end zone, making the score 14-7 with 4:28 to play in the first quarter.
The combination of Hilliard, Brantley and senior running back Sherman Badie chipped away the yardage, three to seven yards at a time on the two scoring drives. Mixed in were big gains, including runs of 34 by Hilliard, 18 by Badie and a 22-yard completion from Brantley to junior wide receiver Terren Encalade.
Oklahoma responded again, tying the game, 14-14, on a 22-yard pass from Mayfield to Lamb. The Sooners took the lead with 9:50 left in the second quarter when Parnell Motley intercepted Brantley and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. It was Tulane’s first turnover of the season. OU extended the lead to 28-14 on a 20-yard pass from Mayfield to Abdul Adams.
The Sooners scored four times in the second half, including three fourth-quarter touchdowns, on drives of 70, 69, 41 and 98 yards, to reach the 56-14 final. Mayfield finished the day with 331 yards passing and four touchdowns.
True freshman quarterback Khalil McClain saw his first action of the season, rushing eight times, and completing one pass for 11 yards. True freshman wide receiver Dane Ledford caught that 11-yard pass from McClain and rushed once for four yards in his first career game.
“I think this is a game that in six or seven weeks it can help you out at a little bit,” Fritz said. “Playing a quality opponent, you learn you just have to keep fighting and keep battling, I thought we did a good job of that in the first half. There’s ebbs and flows in a game, and when things aren’t going your way you just have to keep playing and fighting. That’s what we’re teaching our guys.”