It was a tale of two halves for Tulane football in its homecoming contest against SMU on Saturday afternoon inside Yulman Stadium.
After the Green Wave obtained just 80 yards in the first half, Tulane then surged for 311 yards in the second half, garnering a 31-21 lead just minutes into the fourth quarter. However, the Mustangs retaliated with two late fourth quarter touchdowns, including a 10-play, 78-yard go-ahead drive with just 1:16 remaining to clinch the 35-31 victory.
"Obviously a really disappointing game," head coach Willie Fritz stated. "It was a game that I thought would have been a really good win for the program. I was really impressed with our guys' effort and toughness throughout the game. There were just times, particularly in the first half, when we didn't play real smart. We made some penalties and our margin for error was very small. We had some self-inflicted wounds, and we need to stay away from those kinds of situations or else it's going to be hard for us to win and overcome bad situations. We're going to get this program turned around, unfortunately I wish it was sooner rather than later. We're really close. We just have to hang together and keep working hard."
SMU (4-4, 2-2 American Athletic Conference | West) only needed three minutes and two seconds in the first quarter to score 14 points, utilizing a 54-yard pass on their first scoring drive and a 41-yard rush on the next. Tulane (3-5, 0-4 The American | West) reached the end zone in opening quarter as well, as Dontrell Hilliard capped a nine-play, 47-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.
Later, trailing 21-10 at half, the Green Wave picked up its intensity by recording 14 unanswered points in the third quarter. The defensive unit led the way, creating opportune field position as Tulane's first scoring drive of the quarter began on SMU's 38-yard line. Glen Cuiellette then connected with Terren Encalade for a 24-yard touchdown strike, only to repeat said performance and play on their ensuing drive to take a 24-21 lead.
The Wave then extended its lead to 31-21 in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter when they went 92 yards on six carries from Sherman Badie, Josh Rounds and Hilliard, including a season best 67-yard rush from the latter. The drive was capped by a nine-yard carry from Badie, which marked his first touchdown of the year.
Yet, SMU retaliated with two late fourth quarter touchdowns, completing back-to-back 10-play, 70-yard drives, to escape with the 35-31 victory.