Tulane vs. Houston has become a Thursday night tradition in October as of late. This year’s edition, though, saw two teams trending in very different directions face off. The Green Wave came in on the heels of three straight losses while the Cougars rode in high on four consecutive wins. Houston was hot. Tulane was desperate. The stage was set.
By means of a strong start, an even stronger finish, and a relentless pass rush, Houston continued its triumphant streak to win its fifth in a row. The Cougars used 23 unanswered second half points to overcome a brief deficit and defeat Tulane, 40-22.
Dana Holgorsen’s team started the game exactly how many anticipated. Houston went up 14-0 early. An on-the-run Clayton Tune threw two touchdowns in the right corner of the end zone to Christian Trahan and Jeremy Singleton, respectively, in the opening frame. When Singleton tapped his toes in the end zone on his 17-yard score it seemed as though the Coogs were in for a domination.
But this Green Wave team, despite being down several times this season, has never believed it was out and that confidence was on full display in the second quarter. Michael Pratt found this season’s favorite receiver Tyrick James for a 13-yard touchdown that was followed up with a successful two-point try. Houston tacked on a field goal to narrowly extend its lead, but shortly after, the Wave scored again. Running back Tyjae Spears notched his first touchdown of the season on a 39-yard scamper. And just like that it was 17-15 at the half.
Tulane took a tremendous amount of momentum into the break and brought it back out with them in the third. On Houston’s opening drive of the second half, the Cougars offense gambled on a 4th and short but Tulane’s defense forced a pivotal turnover on downs. Pratt and company responded in just one play. Tight end Will Wallace grabbed Pratt’s second touchdown of the night to the tune of 29 yards. The Green Wave suddenly held a 5-point advantage.
The Coogs would not go away though thanks to the play of their defense. The defensive line paraded in the backfield all night with eight sacks — the team’s highest output since 2016. No sack swung the momentum more than one in third quarter by defensive end D’Anthony Jones. He brought down Pratt for a loss of 19 yards and forced a fumble that he promptly recovered.
The Cougars capitalized for a field goal to cut the Tulane lead to a mere two points, and shortly after, they regained the lead when Tune hit Singleton for their second touchdown connection of the night.
Midway through the fourth the Cougars ballooned their lead to 33-22 on a touchdown run from halfback Ta’Zhawn Henry. From there the Houston D pinned its ears down and closed out the game. The aggressive unit forced Tulane’s offense to turn it over on downs while the offense tacked on a final exclamation point of a touchdown. A game in which Tulane had shown fight and resiliency came up as another disheartening loss for the Green Wave.
Tune had himself a night as he finished with 288 passing yards and three touchdowns. Running back Alton McCaskill led the way for the Cougars with 93 rushing yards and a score. For Tulane, Pratt went 20-for-30 for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the defeat.
The story of the night, though, was the Cougars defense that surrendered just 94 rushing yards to the normally run-heavy Green Wave. They dominated Tulane at the line of scrimmage, making Pratt uncomfortable all night long. Houston held team-leading rusher Cameron Carroll to 68 yards and kept him out of the end zone completely.
Meanwhile Tulane’s own defensive woes continued as they gave up 435 total yards and 40 points. They also failed to force a turnover for the second straight week. For the first time since 2012, the Green Wave start their season 1-5.
On the other hand, Houston has strung together five consecutive victories to extend its longest streak of the Dana Holgorsen era. With a 3-0 record in AAC play, the Cougars’ first conference championship appearance since 2015 is becoming more of a reality week-by-week. But before any additional action, they’ll enjoy a midseason break.
Up Next: Houston will get some extended time off with a bye week before returning home to take on ECU on October 23.
Tulane too will get a bye now as they prepare for yet another Thursday night contest on October 21 against SMU on the road.