Griffin Throws for 363 yards, Two Touchdowns in Loss
EL PASO, TX – Tulane senior quarterback Ryan Griffin threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns and junior running back Orleans Darkwa rushed for 61 yards, but it was not enough as the Green Wave fell short in its fourth quarter comeback bid at UTEP, 24-20, in front of 23,234 at the Sun Bowl.
Tulane (1-6, 1-2 C-USA) trailed the entire game but looked to have new life during the final minutes after freshman safety Darion Monroe recovered a fumble by UTEP’s LaQuintus Dowell on its own 31-yard line with 2:56 remaining in the game.
Looking to duplicate last week’s last minute comeback against SMU, Griffin completed a short pass to sophomore running back on first down, but misfired on his next two attempts, setting up decisive 4th and nine. On what would be Tulane’s final play of the game, Griffin heaved a pass down field to sophomore receiver Xavier Rush but UTEP’s Jamie Irving broke up the pass. UTEP then ran out the clock and improved to 2-6 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA play.
“It was very frustrating that we couldn't get touchdowns and had to settle for field goals tonight,” Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson. “But we still had a chance at the end but their defense played great and we came up short. They made great adjustments after half time and executed better on defense. We are a young football team and we can’t afford to turn the ball over. That was one of our keys to winning tonight’s game. We did it and it really hurt us.”
The second half was a complete opposite of the first. After a scoring frenzy by both teams in the first 30 minutes, neither team scored in the third quarter. For Tulane the third quarter was a 15-minute period of missed opportunities.
On its opening possession of the third quarter, Tulane took the ball at its own 14-yard line and drove57 yards in eight plays. Griffin connected on all five of his passing attempts, including a seven-yard hook-up with Rush that gave the Wave a first and 10 at the UTEP 20-yard line. However, on the ensuing play, freshman Josh Rounds mishandled a handoff from Griffin and the ball squirted free and the Miners recovered.
The Green Wave defense forced the Miners to punt and Tulane then took over on its own 20-yard line. Once again, Tulane seemed to move the ball at will against the UTEP defense. Using a 13-play drive, Griffin passed the TU offense down to the UTEP 39-yard line. Griffin hit sophomore receiver Marc Edwards on a short pass for five yards on first down, but the offense stumbled and Griffin failed to hook up with Edwards on slant pattern on a fourth and six play and gave the ball back to the Miners on downs.
“We had some costly mistakes that really hurt us tonight,” Griffin said. “We can’t turn the ball over and we did and then late in the game we didn’t execute on third and fourth down opportunities. It was very frustrating not to come away with more on our first three drives of the second half. We had some very long drives and only got points on one possession. It’s always good to get points but we have to score touchdowns.”
After another stop by the TU defense to begin the fourth quarter, the scoring drought was broken when junior Cairo Santos connected on his 10th straight field goal of the year with a 37-yard boot at the 8:35 mark to bring Tulane to within four points, 24-20, but those would prove to be the final points of the game for the Green Wave.
Griffin finished the night 28-of-44 for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Shackleford and Grant each hauled in six receptions apiece and both went over the 100-yard receiving plateau. Shackleford led the way with a career-high 130 yards and a score, while Grant had 115 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, senior linebacker Darryl Farley paced the Green Wave defenders with 10 tackles, while Monroe and senior cornerback Ryan Travis each had nine apiece.
Griffin was solid in the first half, completing 11-of-18 attempts for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Five of his 11 completions covered 20+ yards, including a long of 45 yards down the middle to Shackleford in the second quarter. But the first half was not for a defensive purist. Both teams spent the first 30 minutes trading touchdowns and field goals and both teams combined for just two punts and no turnovers.
UTEP struck first and took a quick 7-0 lead on its opening drive of the game. Running back Josh Bell broke a tackle inside the 10-yard line and ran in for the game’s first point. The scoring play completed a 10-play, 75-yard drive in just under four minutes.
Tulane got on the board in the first half and tied the game at 7-all when Griffin connected on a 33-yard strike with sophomore receiver Justyn Shackleford at the 2:29 mark to complete 6-play, 79-yard drive.
On the ensuing possession, UTEP marched 75 yards on nine plays and Nick Lamaison connected with receiver Michael Edwards on a 28-yard touchdown strike to open the second quarter and give the Miners a 14-7 lead.
The Green Wave answered right back and pulled to within 14-10 at the 10:36 mark in the second quarter when SSantos knocked down a 46-yard attempt and connected on his ninth straight field goal attempt this season. The field goal culminated an 8-play, 46-yard drive.
The Miners continued to answer Tulane’s scores in the first half. UTEP took a 21-10 lead with 6:59 remaining in the second quarter when Lamaison found Edwards on a fade route in the right corner of the endzone for a 9-yard touchdown. The score completed a 9-play, 82-yard drive for the Miners.
Griffin continued to shine in the opening half. He led a Tulane on a 5-play, 75-yard drive and completed all three passing attempts on the drive, including a 45-yard strike to Shackleford that set the Wave up inside the UTEP 20-yard line. Two plays later, Griffin notched his second touchdown after throwing a short pass to Grant, who evaded several would-be tacklers and found the endzone on a 15-yard scoring play to pull TU to within 21-17 at the 4:56 mark.
On its next possession, UTEP drove 68 yards on 12 plays and kicker Steven Valdez booted a 22-yard field goal with 28-seconds remaining in the opening half to extend its lead to 24-17, which remained the score at the half.
Tulane returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 27, C-USA rival UAB at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Kickoff for that game is slated for 2:35 p.m. Tickets to that game and future Green Wave events are available through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
NOTES FOLLOWING TULANE FOOTBALL’S 24-20 CONFERENCE USA LOSS VS. UTEP
Tulane 20, UTEP 24
Tulane Game 7
El Paso, Texas
Saturday’s game marked eighth all-time meeting between Tulane and UTEP and with the win tonight the Miners now lead the series, 5-3, and have now won back-to-back games in the series for just the second time. UTEP topped Tulane in the first two meetings in 2005 and 2006.
The Green Wave now has a 1-3 all-time record at the Sun Bowl with the lone win coming in 2010. Tulane has lost match-ups in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Junior running back Orleans Darkwa finished the night with a season-high 61 yards on 14 carries, which are the most rushing yards by a Tulane player this season. Tulane’s 77 total rushing yards was also a season high.
Senior linebacker Darryl Farley led the Wave with a season-high 10 tackles, which are the second most of his career.
With UTEP’s fourth quarter fumble, Tulane has now forced an opponent turnover in every game this season. For the year, TU’s defenders have forced 10 total turnovers (five interceptions; five fumbles).
Tulane recorded a season highs 440 yards of total offense. The previous was 342 yards last week against SMU and Tulane has now surpassed the 300-yard passing plateau in consecutive weeks. The Green Wave finished the game with 363 yards through the air and 77 yards on the ground.
Senior quarterback completed the night 28-of-44 for 363 yards and two touchdowns. His 363-yard passing night was the seventh 300-yard game of his career and his second straight after finishing with 302 yards last week against SMU. His seven 300-yard passing games ties him with J.P. Losman (2000-03) for fourth place in the school record books.
Sophomore WR Justyn Shackleford recorded a career-high 130 receiving yards on six receptions and one touchdown.
Junior WR Ryan Grant finished the night with 115 yards on six catches and one touchdown. His 115 yards marked his third 100-yard receiving day of the year and he now has four for his career.
The last time Tulane has two receivers post 100-yard days in the same game was last season at home against Memphis on Oct. 22 when Wilson Van Hooser finished with 100 yards and running back Orleans Darkwa had 112 yards.
Junior running back Orleans Darkwa made his first start of the season. Darkwa missed the first three games, but returned against ULM. It was Darkwa’s first start since starting the 2011 season finale on the road at Hawai’i on Nov. 26, 2011. Darkwa has now started 18 of 28 career games.
Sophomore safety Renaldo Thomas earned his first start of the season. Thomas, who missed the majority of the season with an injury, made his last career start on the road Duke on Sept. 24, 2011. He now has four career starts.
Junior PK Cairo Santos remained perfect on the season kicking a field goal with 46-yard and 37-yard FGs against UTEP. For the season, he is now 10-for-10, including a 7-for-7 showing from 40-plus yards.
Junior WR Ryan Grant extended his consecutive games with a catch streak to 15 after hauling. The last time Grant – who missed the final 12 games of the 2011 season due to injury – failed to catch a pass in a game he played in came on Oct. 9, 2010, against Army.
Three Tulane players extended their double-digit starting streaks on Saturday at UTEP –senior DE Austen Jacks (32), senior CB Ryan Travis (31) and senior OT Eric Jones (21).
Freshman offensive guard Todd Jacquet made his first career start when he opened the game at tight end, becoming the 20th Green Wave student-athlete to earn his first collegiate start during the 2012 season. With Jacquet’s first career start, a combined 10 freshmen (7 true, 3 redshirts) have started for Tulane this year. In the season opener against Rutgers on Sept. 1, Tulane’s first-time starters were sophomore Sean Donnelly started at left tackle, junior Mike Henry at center, sophomore Rob Kelley at tailback, junior Rio Mares at right guard, true freshman Darion Monroe at cornerback, redshirt-freshman Corey Redwine at nose tackle, sophomore Justyn Shackleford at wide receiver, sophomore Adam Skidmore at left guard, sophomore Evan Tatford at tight end and sophomore Kenny Welcome at defensive tackle. At Tulsa on Sept. 8, redshirt-freshman Aaron Bryant and true freshman Alex Paul joined the list with starts at defensive end and right guard, respectively. Against Ole Miss on Sept. 22, sophomore Danté Butler opened at running back while true freshmen Devin Powell, Jordan Batiste and Lorenzo Doss started at quarterback, cornerback and nickelback, respectively. Senior quarterback D.J. Ponder earned his first start last against ULM on Sept. 29, and true freshman tight end Sydie London garnered his first start at UL-Lafayette. Redshirt-freshman wide receiver Marc Edwards started for the first time last week against SMU.
Tulane’s game captains for Saturday's contest at UTEP were junior offensive guard Rio Mares representing the offense, senior linebacker Darryl Farley representing the defense and junior kicker Ryan Rome representing the special teams.
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